Chicago Public Schools cancels trip to national chess tournament, says protocols 'were not followed'

Wednesday, May 8, 2024
CPS cancels elementary school's trip to national chess tournament
Chicago Public Schools has canceled Ella Flagg Young Elementary School's trip to a national chess tournament because protocols "were not followed."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents are angry after they say a team of underprivileged students were denied by Chicago Public Schools the chance to compete in a national elementary school chess tournament.

CPS officials are defending the decision.

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"I feel very disappointed that we weren't able to go just for some unfair reason," Ella Flag Young School chess team player Samantha Amaya said.

She said she and her team aren't going to national tournament that starts in Atlanta as they had planned.

A CPS spokesperson confirms a staffer was removed and the trip to the tournament has been canceled.

"Families were notified yesterday that because CPS protocols for overnight student travel were not followed, at any level, the trip would not be proceeding," a CPS statement read in part.

I just want the kids to have that opportunity before they graduate. They graduate May 31st," chess coach Joseph Ocol said. "This is all about their future. It is not about me," Ocol said.

Ocol said he was suspended despite filing paperwork for the tournament as he always has with nearly 20 years of coaching chess at CPS schools. He said he even paid for the flights and hotel, which is now lost.

"Chess is not just a game. It's a tool in gaining high education and life discipline," resident Edie Jacobs said.

The West Side chess team of Black and brown players has community support as players are successful academically, and some go on to get college scholarships.

'Denying these African-American and Latino-American children the right to go and compete, that is denying them their rights and that's wrong," said Pastor Julie Contreras with United Giving Hope.

"Instead of making excuses about what wasn't done, let's get these kids to the trip in Atlanta," Frank Avila Jr. said.