Thursday, February 12, 2009

IL: CPS to review abuse claims

New boss Huberman wants closer look at five years of student allegations
February 11, 2009,CST-NWS-skulbeat11web.article

BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter

New Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman has ordered a "thorough review'' of five years of student mistreatment allegations following revelations that only 68 employees have been forced to leave their jobs in that time despite hundreds of complaints of "improper contact."

However, the mother of one fourth-grade boy who contends his teacher slammed him into a desk said Huberman's actions don't go far enough.

Courtney Smith said an outsider -- such as the Schools Inspector General --should review all 818 reported allegations of student abuse since 2003 -- whether they were verified by Chicago Public Schools investigators or not.

Smith said the CPS investigation of her son's Nov. 25 incident at Emmet Academy was "a fraud.'' No CPS investigators looked into her son's charges for more than two monthss, until CBS 2 TV news began asking questions about the case, she said.

CBS 2 reported that only two students were interviewed from what Smith described as a classroom full of witnesses. CPS determined the allegations were "unfounded.''

Schools spokesman Michael Vaughn said Tuesday that Inspector General James Sullivan will be asked to review the Emmet case, and the CEO's office and law department will review other allegations of improper contact, starting with those that were verified by CPS law department nvestigators.

The action follows reports by CBS 2 that since 2003, at least 818 CPS students have charged they were "battered'' by a CPS employee. In 568 of those cases, the TV station reported, CPS investigators verified the charges, but only 24 of those cases led to a termination.

Vaughn clarified Tuesday that 39 others resigned and five more retired rather than face disciplinary charges.

All of the allegations cited by CBS 2 involved "contact'' between a student and an employee, but not all involved corporal punishment or students being struck, Vaughn said. And, he noted, those cases that were "founded,'' or verified, may have involved "proper contact," such as an employee breaking up a fight.

Smith charged that any review should be done by an outsider because "Everybody is in cahoots. Just because CPS says it was unfounded, who says they did a thorough investigation?''

Smith said her son even gave the principal a list of students whom the teacher allegedly had struck with a ruler or belt. But no action was taken until last week, she said, when, "out of the blue'' an investigator questioned her son in the principal's presence -- but without alerting her first.

"I think that was pretty messed up. You go and question him with people he doesn't trust around? He doesn't have any faith in this principal at all,'' Smith said. " I don't think they were supposed to question him at all without my approval.''

A Chicago Sun-Times report in January found that allegations that three girls had been strip-searched at ASPIRA Early College Charter High School languished for months while the CPS law department tried to figure out who should investigate the case. Ultimately, CPS attorneys found at least two girls were improperly strip searched and two ASPIRA administrators were asked to resign.

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