Thursday, February 12, 2009

IL: 'Painful Lessons': Corporal Punishment Follow-Up

Feb 11, 2009 6:46 pm US/Central

CHICAGO (CBS) ― Our 2 Investigators discovered hundreds of cases since 2003 where school children were beaten or mistreated in their classrooms. A top to bottom review is now underway after CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini's nine-month investigation. He has a look at the city's call for action Wednesday to stop those "Painful Lessons."

When we first started our investigation, we only knew of athletes beaten or hit by their coaches - but we kept digging for records and have now found it is happening inside classrooms as well.

Now we have reaction from Mayor Daley and the City Council which is demanding answers from the Chicago Board of Education.

"Nobody should be improperly or violently hit in the school," said Alderman Patrick O'Connor.

The City Council has heard the cries of students - first a teenager, then a 10-year-old. They are among hundreds of students claiming they were hurt by a teacher or coach - disturbing snapshots of 818 student beating and mistreatment allegations exposed by CBS 2.

"I am disturbed about the entire issue," said Alderman Latasha Thomas.

Ald. Thomas chairs the City Council Committee on Education and Child Development. The CBS 2 investigation prompted Thomas and Ald. O'Connor to create a resolution calling for incoming Schools CEO Ron Huberman to appear before the City Council.

"Obviously it didn't happen on his watch but he's the man in charge now, so he's going to have to answer the questions," O'Connor said.

CBS 2 uncovered school documents and security tape revealing everything from athletes hit with paddles and bats to students struck with broomsticks, belts, yardsticks and staplers.

"It never should get to violence," Ald. Thomas said.

Of 568 sustained cases against public school staff members, only 24 led to termination.

"No one should do any type of physical punishment against any child," Mayor Richard Daley said.

Mayor Daley says he has faith that his new school chief Ron Huberman will investigate how these cases are handled.

The cases include a teacher who hit a student on the wrist with a stick that had a nail in it; another gave student 100 licks with a belt; still another teacher straddled a student on the ground and repeatedly hit her in the face causing injury. A security guard who grabbed a student's neck and squeezed his genitals; a dean of students who repeatedly hit a female student with a belt; and a principal who locked a student in a supply closet for 40 minutes.

Simeon Career Academy student Bruce Zayas' paddling case was sustained, but there was videotape to back him up.

"I just remember the pain afterwards," Zayas said.

Treveon Martin, 10, alleges a teacher slammed him against a desk last November.

"I don't feel safe," Martin said.

His allegation was unfounded, but it's how his case was investigated that is raising questions. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital and treated for pain and a contusion.

But it took 70 days and our CBS 2 investigation before Chicago Public Schools sent an investigator to his school last week.

"I'm sure he's afraid in school," Ald. Thomas said.

Martin's case is now being reviewed again, and so are the others.

Ald. Thomas also questions how the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) handles these cases.

School officials confirm they didn't report Martin's complaint to DCFS for 10 days. School officials also say DCFS decided not to investigate the problem.

Martin's mother says that DCFS never called her to get her son's side of the story.

A DCFS spokesman says they can't comment.

For a complete list of Chicago Public Schools that have founded complaints of corporal punishment against them, click here.

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