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November 29, 2021

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The Chicago Tribune has reported very serious allegations of sexual misconduct at a Chicago military academy. Here, besides the shocking abuse, the problem is that school officials allegedly knew of the abuse allegations and failed to report them.

The leadership of the school claims that they reported the allegations to central office officials, who did nothing about them. Either way, this is yet another example of school officials prioritizing their own jobs and welfare over student safety.

Sexual Misconduct at The Marine Leadership Academy

Inappropriate behavior has been going on at The Marine Leadership Academy for years. The Logan Square school is a Level 1 CPS school that is affiliated with the Marine Corps JROTC Program. The investigation into the school began in 2019, meaning that abuse allegations likely dated far earlier than that.

One teacher had substantiated claims against them of a sexual relationship with a student. In another case, a teacher groomed a student, messaging them that they “could not wait” until the student turns 18. Allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to before 2019 were investigated.

The Inspector General’s Office had alerted the CPS Central Office back in 2019 that numerous officials at the school knew about these abuse allegations and failed to report them, including the former principal, who was fired in early November for failing in her duties. In addition, the assistant principal was also on this list.

The Inspector General Report Details the Misconduct

Here, there were many examples of sexual misconduct. A dozen teachers and staff members were implicated in sexual impropriety involving students. This misconduct spanned the period from 2016 to 2021. The Inspector General’s report detailed “systemic issues” at the school.

Even the CPS CEO Pedro Martinez called the behavior a “stunning betrayal of trust.”

What is every bit as bad as the fact that the behavior happened (and possibly worse) is that senior officials at the school (up to the very top) knew about the allegations and did nothing to protect the children.

Chicago Public Schools Lack Key Student Protections

Marine falls directly under the Chicago Public Schools leadership. However, the leadership has been truly lacking in what has shaped up to be a colossal failure, as outlined by the inspector general.

Part of the problem is a lack of communication between key people who need to talk to protect students. The Chicago Teachers Union is very powerful, and it tries to protect members when there have been abuse allegations made.

They will not hesitate to file lawsuits when they believe that one of their members was wrongly terminated.

In addition, the school district has an interest in sweeping problems under the rug and making them go away.

This is exactly why the function of investigating abuse allegations was taken away from the CPS law department and other central office officials and given to the inspector general.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez Claims to Have Been Out of the Loop

CPS CEO Martinez has taken a tough public stance against sexual abuse and inappropriate conduct in the public schools. However, his public actions have not matched his words since he took over the job is September 2019.

The allegations at Marine are his chance to show that he will not tolerate inappropriate conduct in a CPS school. At a news conference about the allegations, Martinez tried to say all of the right things.

However, Martinez said that he did not learn of the extent of the investigation until an October meeting with the Inspector General. Even still, Martinez cannot give exact details of what happened at the Marine Leadership Academy.

Martinez said that “fewer than a dozen students were victims of abuse and sexual misconduct at the hands of staff members. However, this is a callous statement that minimizes what any student has gone through.

In addition, Martinez said that CPS has to leave staff members accused of inappropriate relationships in place until the report was completed.

The Rate of Misconduct Allegations Against CPS Staff Members Is Alarming

The misconduct at Marine Leadership is hardly a unique example of the harm that children face. There are over 350,000 children in Chicago Public Schools.

There are an average of three complaints each made to the CPS office each day that are investigated by the inspector general’s office. This misconduct touches practically every level of employee, from a school principal to other adults who serve as support staff in schools.

These can happen through an anonymous report or a named complaint. Not all of these end up in referrals to the Chicago Police Department.

This Has Been a Colossal Failure on the Part of CPS

When other concerns get in the way of protecting students, children are harmed. Unfortunately, suspected violations are not reported in many different contexts.

The failure to report misconduct not only fails children, but it allows bad people to escape responsibility for their actions. No matter the setting, responsible adults have a legal obligation to protect children.

Whether this is keeping students safe or protecting children at church, adults who work with children have a sworn duty to call attention to inappropriate relationships.

This failure to protect students is the same as much of the behavior uncovered in the Catholic Church. Not only did church officials keep quiet about sexual harassment and abuse, but they actively hid suspected violations for decades.

CPS officials must improve their efforts because too many children have been harmed in the school system over the years by Chicago Public Schools officials’ abysmal oversight failures and cover-ups. This is a tragic failure that must be fixed by effective leadership by district officials.

This investigation represents yet another low in a public school system that has had too many of them. Every student deserves safety and protection at school. There have been too many instances where adults with responsibility failed to report abuse for investigation.

Some of these problems result from insufficient staffing, while others stem from a culture of coverups. School officials either bury abuse allegations or try to take advantage of legal loopholes to avoid accountability when there have been inappropriate sexual relationships and abuse.

The Legal Liability of Chicago Public Schools

Like any organization that has a responsibility for children, the school district can be held liable for failing to protect CPS students. They are responsible for the actions of every school employee as the employer.

This is the same legal theory that has led to the Catholic Church paying out billions of dollars in lawsuits and settlements for cases of inappropriate sexual relationship and abuse. The CPS Law Department has been kept very busy with sexual assault and abuse allegations.

Attorneys Helping Families Take Action for Misconduct Allegations

As parents, you can hold CPS responsible for the harm that your child suffered. When it comes to holding CPS responsible, our attorneys can help.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has compassionately assisted sexual abuse victims as they seek financial compensation for the harm that was inflicted on them.

We help parents recognize their legal rights, and we can assist adult victims of sexual abuse take strong legal action against the school district or any other place where they were harmed.

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