The new "Office of Student Protections and Title IX" will be made up of 20 people who will investigate serious allegations of sexual abuse by teachers or students. The team will coordinate with Chicago police and the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, train staff, parents and students on all forms of sexual assault and harassment and link students with counseling.
This new office will have a $3 million budget. It will also address cases of extreme bullying.
The office will refer allegations of adult-on-student abuse to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation and oversee investigations of student-on-student abuse. The team will pair a student with an advocate immediately after an allegation of abuse is reported and students will be provided with resources for long-term support, officials said.
"I am committed to making CPS a place where students are more safe and addressing this head on," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said. "I believe it is our responsibility to get this right and I will do everything in my power to ensure that this happens."
The announcement was met with some concern from key stakeholders.
Chamala Jordan, parent to a CPS student, said the announcement left her confused.
"As a parent, honestly, those things were told to us that they were in place. So to create or construct a whole new entity, that was supposed to be in place already, doesn't really make sense to me," she said.
Inspector general Nicholas Schuler is supposed to work with the new department, yet said Wednesday that he was largely in the dark about the new plan.
"Figuring out how we're going to interface with CPS and the new unit they've started today is what I would have liked to have seen some more details about before today," he said.
The Chicago Teacher's Union raised concerns that the new plan may cause more problems in the long run.
"When tutoring a student alone in your room puts you under a cloud of suspicion, I think we have to be concerned about what that would mean for the work that we do as educators," said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teacher's Union.
Sharkey also raised doubts about the new department's origins. The formation of the office was developed with Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor who is overseeing the comprehensive review of CPS policies as state inspector general.
"The bottom line reaction is that I'm surprised by this and I don't trust its political independence," Sharkey said.
District officials will conduct another round of background checks on all adults who work in CPS schools.
Top brass at CPS asked student victims of sexual abuse at school to come forward at a press conference Wednesday morning.
"We encourage you to speak up. We expect - I would count it as a good thing - if we hear more from students and communities around these incidents," Jackson said.
On Monday, CPS removed a principal at Simeon Career Academy, Dr. Sheldon House, and another at Goode STEM Academy, Armando Rodriguez, amid investigations into how sexual abuse allegations have been handled, problems with background checks of volunteers and the failure of some educators to alert authorities when abuse was reported.
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