Based on a disturbing Title IX violation pattern first reported in a Chicago Tribune investigation this summer, the US Department of Education announced Thursday that it would withhold $14.9 million from Chicago Public Schools, because the district fails to keep students safe from sexual abuse.
Although the feds made it clear that the sanctions were due to the lack of compliance by the district as a whole—four cases are now pending in the Office for Civil Rights, more than any other K-12 district in the nation—the Tribune identified specific cases in which the district failed to rein in claims of sexual abuse of its students.
For example, the OCR launched two investigations earlier this week into alleged sexual abuse of elementary students by peers: one at Brennemann Elementary and the other at Ogden International School. One teacher stands accused of drinking Sangria with a 16-year-old student, sexually abusing her in his car, and offering her family a $20,000 “scholarship” to make the whole incident “go away.”
A girl at Clemente High School, pictured in the Tribune’s story, tattooed “Survive” on her arm as a directive or command to herself to keep going past the sexual abuse she says she endured. No criminal charges from police or disciplinary action from CPS resulted from her accusations.
“She just wanted to feel safe and focus on her classes,” the paper quoted Ashley Fretthold, one of the girl’s lawyers, as saying about an incident where she cut herself. “And yet, CPS’s 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.”
The funds were earmarked for the conversion of neighborhood schools to district-wide magnet schools, although the charges have nothing specific to do with magnet programs. The federal government is in the process of reconsidering its enforcement of Title IX through the OCR, according to a speech delivered by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Still, the actual withholding of this much federal money based on a Title IX violation is unprecedented.