Federal Officials Withhold Grant Money from Chicago Public Schools
Because of their failure to protect students from sexual abuse, Chicago public schools will not be receiving their previously awarded grant money.
Federal officials have decided to withhold millions of dollars from Chicago public schools (CPS).
This decision was made because of the hundreds of CPS students that have been sexually abused by employees over the past ten years, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.
The U.S. Department of Education issued a letter on Thursday to CPS explaining why the funds have been suspended.
It says the district has not responded to the Title IX complaints against them or taken steps to prevent the continued harm of their students, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The memo, written by the department’s Office for Civil Rights, says it has “identified serious and pervasive violations under Title IX” from CPS.
The memo also explained how CPS mishandled the two student complaints filed within the last few years. Their responses to the investigations were slow and incomplete.
2 Cases Filed against CPS under Title IX
In 2015, a student at Prosser Career Academy claimed a teacher got her drunk and sexually assaulted her in his car. An investigation into this case found former Prosser teacher, Scott Gallus, guilty of sexually abusing the student and then offering her family a $20,000 scholarship to make the matter “go away.”
Officials found that Gallus had faced three prior complaints of sexual misconduct, which CPS failed to disclose. The school district paid the student $78,000 to settle a civil lawsuit.
A former student from Clemente Community Academy told the school’s dean and police that she was assaulted near her school in 2016. She alleged she was attacked and brought into an abandoned building by 13 boys and forced to perform oral sex. She recognized eight of the boys from her school.
Her complaint against the school accused them of ignoring Title IX by not investigating the alleged assault. The complaint states officials never made it clear she had access to mental health services or that they would help her avoid the assault suspects in school, both requirements of Title IX.
The student’s complaint said none of the assault suspects were disciplined, causing her to be afraid to be at school. She ended up transferring schools to feel safe.
“She just wanted to feel safe and focus on her classes,” said Ashley Fretthold, one of the student’s lawyers. “And yet, CPS’ response was to push back, question why, delay responding, and while sometimes they would eventually agree to some measures, they would not consistently implement them. They failed to recognize and respond to a traumatized student asking for support.”
For the former Clemente student, now 19, she hopes her case will protect other students in the future.
Two more sexual violence investigations have been launched by the federal civil rights office. CPS now has more federal sexual violence investigations open than any other K-12 district in the country, according to data found by the Tribune.
Grant Money Will Remain Frozen Until CPS Complies with Dept. of Ed. Requests
Department officials believe this drastic but necessary step will force CPS to make student safety a priority.
“Withholding public funding for students is not an easy decision to make and we are very concerned about the impact on students,” a department official said.
The letter from the Department of Education explained that $14.8 million of funding has been suspended from the Magnet Schools Assistant Program grant awarded in 2017.
It was reported last year that the money was to be used to turn three neighborhood elementary schools into citywide magnet schools.
The grant was awarded in installments over five years, meaning this year’s $4 million has been put on hold.
Federal officials say the grant money will continue to flow once the district complies with its civil rights obligations.
The school district, however, believes they are being attacked and plan to appeal the decision.
“The Trump Administration’s move to threaten funding for schools that serve children of color is another attack on Chicago, considering CPS has already taken significant steps recommended by an independent expert to transform the way it responds to and prevents abuse,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said.
Those recommendations were made by Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor and Illinois Executive Inspector General, according to NPR. She found that “predators went undetected or unpunished.”
Passman said that Hickey’s assessment led to changes that included partnering with Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and updating its sex-ed curriculum.
In a recent case, however, a parent tried to report a sexual assault but “staff did not answer the published phone number” and the line was full and not accepting messages, the memo said.
The Office for Civil Rights has also brought forward other issues against CPS, including faulty background checks of school workers, as well as the school’s failure to alert other districts of staff members who had been accused of sexual misconduct.
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