WASHINGTON Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it has reached a resolution agreement with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that will require significant structural and procedural changes within the District in order to protect students from sexual assault and abuse.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) concluded that, for years, CPS’s management, handling, and oversight of complaints of student-on-student and adult-on-student sexual harassment has violated Title IX.
In May 2015 and November 2016, OCR received two individual complaints alleging that the District failed to respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault of students by both teachers and other students. OCR not only opened investigations into both incidents, but also initiated a systemic, district-wide investigation concerning whether the District failed to respond to complaints of sexual harassment, including sexual assault. OCR’s investigation found that the District’s Title IX investigations were inadequate, unreliable, and often conducted by untrained staff. In addition, there was no coordination of the District’s Title IX responsibilities.
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus said, “The Chicago Public Schools have inexcusably failed, for quite some time, to provide their students with the basic protections required by law. I am glad that CPS has now agreed to make a number of serious, substantive changes to come into compliance with Title IX. These issues must be addressed to ensure that all students in Chicago Public Schools have an opportunity to learn in a safe educational environment free from the threat of sexual harassment or sexual assault.”
OCR found that CPS failed to respond promptly and equitably to complaints, did not provide services and remedies to the complainants, did not notify the complainants of investigation outcomes, and did not take effective action to provide a safe environment for all students. In many instances, the District did not respond adequately to complaints that District-affiliated adults engaged in sexual harassment, assault or grooming of students. Furthermore, CPS did not have a Title IX coordinator from 1999 to December 2018, and its poor recordkeeping made it impossible to coordinate its Title IX responsibilities.
Based on the deficiencies in CPS’s Title IX procedures and in the District’s handling of complaints of sexual misconduct, OCR is requiring the District to take the following actions:
- Provide complainants who believe the District mishandled their complaints of sexual misconduct with the opportunity to receive a second, independent review of those complaints
- Review the actions of current and former District employees who failed to take appropriate responsive action to reports of sexual misconduct, and as appropriate, take responsive action concerning those employees
- Revise its Title IX structure to ensure that the Title IX Coordinator has full authority to effectively coordinate the District’s efforts to comply with Title IX
- Develop a comprehensive process for responding to all complaints of sex discrimination and fully document responsive actions taken; and
- Change the District’s Title IX procedures to ensure impartial investigation of sexual misconduct complaints, including a requirement that attorneys involved in a Title IX investigation recuse themselves from handling the same case against the District.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities that receive federal funds. Under Title IX, school districts like CPS have an obligation to respond promptly and equitably to allegations of sex-based harassment, including reports of sexual violence, and remedy the effects of such harassment.
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