Emanuel’s Latest Failure of Chicago’s Students Won’t Be His Last

A Chicago Tribune investigation released today revealed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) failed to protect hundreds of students from sexual abuse and assault. The district failed to exercise adequate oversight, failed to track abuse, failed to look into underlying facts in the cases of potential employees with minor criminal records, and failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment. The CPS Law Department hid investigation results and even attempted to discredit a young victim whose family sued the district.

Commitment to a group of people is evidenced by the time, work, and resources you put into those people. I struggle to imagine a group of people who’ve seen more resources taken away from them than the students and families of Chicago Public Schools. Under Emanuel, CPS has become the most understaffed school district in Illinois. While the average 600-student Illinois school has almost 60 staff members, the same size school in Chicago has less than 40. When a district hires just four people for every six that it needs, a lot is going to fall through the cracks: class size, curriculum, security, teacher training, equipment, counseling, social work services, and resources for special education students to name a few.

Under Emanuel, another critical responsibility that has fallen through the cracks is the district’s obligation to protect students from harassment and sexual assault. While Emanuel appointees continue to send billions of CPS dollars to private companies, banks, and law firms who contribute to the mayor’s campaign fund, the departments within CPS that are responsible for oversight, tracking, investigating, and disclosing allegations of sexual assault are just as understaffed as the schools they’re supposed to serve.

The cause of this is simple: We have a mayor who’s committed to nothing except pilfering school funding for his wealthy allies, silencing those who stand in his way, and managing his public image through the inevitable string of crises caused by his neglect and incompetence.

One of the positions in CPS that’s not understaffed is press secretaries, who make upwards of $165,000 per year and busy themselves telling the public what the mayor wants us to know, and hiding from us what he doesn’t want us to know. He’ll likely hire even more of them to spin his colossal failure to protect students from harassment and sexual assault.

Emanuel’s press office is already busy at work, having no doubt written the statement issued by Emanuel’s handpicked CEO, Janice Jackson in response to the Tribune’s report. The statement read in part, “Like many parents this morning, I’m sick to my stomach.”

Neither Jackson nor Emanuel was sick to the stomach when they sent the law department to court to discredit a student who’d been raped. Both kept their food down just fine when they were denying the Chicago Tribune’s request for records on the number of children abused and assaulted in CPS. As is the pattern with CPS under Emanuel, it took the threat of a lawsuit for them to disclose the number of CPS staff accused of harassment and sexual assault. Where was their outrage when they knew these crimes were being committed, and the public did not?

Whether it be the murder of Laquan McDonald, the filth left in schools by the companies who donate to the mayor’s campaign, or the systemic sexual abuse of students, Emanuel is never outraged when these travesties are occurring. He only gets outraged when you find out about it. He didn’t pledge police reforms after he found out what had been done to Laquan McDonald; he pledged reforms after you found out what had been done to Laquan McDonald. His appointees at CPS didn’t pledge reforms when these students were being assaulted; they pledged reforms after reading the Tribune’s story, and after you found out about these assaults.

There will likely be a perfunctory inquiry by CPS and an announcement of some policy change at its conclusion. However, that change will be meaningless without the staffing to give our students the services and protection they need, and that’s something Emanuel will never commit to. When the choice is between spending CPS dollars on his donors vs. our children, his donors will win out every time.

We need an administration in the Mayor’s Office with a record of fighting for the resources our public institutions need to serve the people effectively, a Mayor who’s shown he will sacrifice private gain for the public good, and one who won’t save his outrage for after-the-fact PR and damage control. That’s not what we’re going to get out of Rahm.

Troy LaRaviere
Candidate for Mayor of Chicago

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