The Sun-Times came out with the terrible, shocking story yesterday.
The Chicago Public Schools inspector general has substantiated allegations against 13 adults at the Marine Leadership Academy for either committing or covering up sexual misconduct dating back more than two years, district officials revealed Friday.
Even though the IG’s investigation of widespread abuse at the school has been going on for two years, the story just broke in the press, so there’s still a lot we don’t know. I’m trying to learn why the investigation took two years and was only handled internally, even though the district has been under a federal consent decree because of its long history of covering up sexual misconduct and abuse. I’m also waiting to find out if there is an accompanying criminal investigation taking place.
Schools CEO Pedro Martinez, who just recently learned about the IG investigation, has put the blame squarely on the “culture of behavior and distrust that occurred at Marine Leadership Academy that is not tolerated by our district.”
Martinez himself is a graduate of Chicago Public Schools so he knows a thing or two about Chicago school culture. But he’s new to the CEO job. So maybe he’s unaware that the “culture of behavior” he’s attributing to the Marine Academy has long been tolerated by his predecessors at the top of CPS.
If that’s the case, I would encourage him to familiarize himself with the “Betrayed” report the Chicago Tribune did three years ago, showing that “Chicago schools have failed to protect students from sexual abuse and assault, leaving lasting damage.”
In its investigation, the Tribune reported that Paul Vallas was the CPS CEO when the Marvin Lovett story first came to light in April 2000. Lovett was accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing at least 19 boys while he was a volunteer and employee at Johnson Elementary School in North Lawndale. He was shot to death in April 2000 by a teenage student he abused for five years. Lovett’s acts represent the largest known case of sexual abuse involving a Chicago Public Schools worker, volunteer or vendor in recent decades.
Records showed a concerned Johnson parent reached out to Vallas and his top aides on behalf of the school community to raise concerns about Lovett’s abuse of children, but CPS records showed Vallas’ administration never launched an investigation. A probe was launched only after Vallas resigned from his CPS post in June 2001. Lawsuits against CPS on behalf of 19 young men who said they were molested by Lovett as far back as 1988 have resulted in $2.7 million in legal settlements so far.
I’m also reminded of the CPS sexual abuse scandal that threatened to bring down Rahm Emanuel’s administration and was a key factor in his decision not to run for reelection in 2019. Shortly after Rahm appointed Janice Jackson to lead the district, there were more revelations showing how children’s complaints were mishandled for years by CPS, resulting in the transfer of investigations involving adults to CPS’ inspector general.
Hundreds of new claims of sexual misconduct and gender-based harassment involving Chicago Public Schools students have been made since the Tribune report first came out and since the U.S. Department of Education announced it would oversee the district’s handling of investigations to protect students from sexual violence.
Stories of sexual abuse have exploded at CPS every few years for as far back as I can remember. But the focus of the story always seems to be exclusively on the local school, teachers and staff members. Rarely is there accountability for outright cover-up or make-it-go-away mentality at the top of the system.
Of course, the culture of sexual abuse and misconduct goes far beyond the Chicago schoolhouse and permeates state and national politics. No need to remind ourselves of how that culture permeated the regime of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and ultimately forced him out of office.
A side note on the Marine Leadership Academy
Chicago has more military academies than any other school district in the nation and with the militarization of society comes a culture of abuse and misogyny.
It should also be noted that the Marine Academy and its “culture of behavior” were forced on the former Ames Middle School by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools’ chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett over the protests of teachers, parents, and community members back in 2013.
The Marine Academy was part of the kickback scheme involving BBB and her partner in crime, Gary Solomon, that would eventually send the pair to prison.
In April 2013, Solomon’s group Synesi/SUPES contracted with Carver Military Academy, Corliss, Farragut, and what then was called Marine Math and Science Academy (now the Marine Leadership Academy at Ames). Each planned to pay Synesi $270,000 per year for its “help.”
CPS leaders contracted with Solomon, coming out-of-pocket after being turned down for state grants. The reason for such a giant waste of taxpayer money became obvious as the feds began turning over rocks, ultimately leading to the canceling of the SUPES contract and Byrd-Bennett's hasty departure.
But in 2001, Solomon, then a dean of students in Niles, accepted a settlement with Niles Township High School District 219 after being accused of sending sexually explicit e-mails to students. He was never charged criminally and denied the allegations.
Ames which was originally built to house Small Learning Communities focused on personalization and experiential learning. After first threatening to move a small military program into the "underutilized" Ames building, Rahm shifted gears and decided to militarize the entire school, elevating military programs at the expense of music, sports, and art.
More to come on this.
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