US: Chicago Public Schools agrees to federal oversight of sexual violence protections for students as Education Sec. Betsy DeVos calls CPS failures 'glaring and heartbreaking' - PressFrom - US
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USChicago Public Schools agrees to federal oversight of sexual violence protections for students as Education Sec. Betsy DeVos calls CPS failures 'glaring and heartbreaking'

20:21  12 september  2019
20:21  12 september  2019 Source:   latimes.com

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CHICAGO — In what federal officials called a historic enforcement action to protect students from sexual violence, Chicago Public Schools has entered into a legally binding agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and pledged extensive reforms in its handling of abuse and assault cases.

“This is one of the deepest dives that we have done” of a major urban public school district, Assistant Sec. for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus said of his office’s yearslong investigation.

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“This is an extraordinary and appalling case,” Marcus added. “It is one of the worst that we have seen in the elementary, secondary school context.”

He said the civil rights office is now holding the district accountable.

The agreement includes “strong provisions” that require CPS to make what Marcus called significant changes in order to protect students from sexual assault and abuse. He said his office will monitor the district for three years, and noncompliance could affect federal funding.

“We’re not talking about minor tweaks to policy. We’re talking about a substantial overhaul,” Marcus said. It was not immediately clear if the resolution would affect a pending federal lawsuit over more than $4 million in withheld grant funding for magnet programs at three elementary schools.

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WASHINGTON — Victims’ rights and women’s rights groups sued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday, saying that rules that she issued last year to guide campuses on how to manage sexual assault complaints violated federal law and discriminated against accusers.

The suit says DeVos and an assistant education secretary are convinced women are lying or are In addition, schools are either not responding to the fewer complaints or not taking action as quickly DeVos issued a new policy in September increasing protections for those accused of sexual assault

The department began its investigations in 2015 but intensified the effort last year after the Tribune’s “Betrayed” series documented more than 500 police reports of sexual assault or abuse of a child inside a Chicago public school during the prior decade, and uncovered child-protection failures that extended from neighborhood schools to the district’s downtown offices and the state capital.

Less than two weeks after the series was published, the Office for Civil Rights sent the district a letter seeking files on issues raised in the Tribune series — such as faulty background checks of school workers and CPS’s failure to alert other districts when staff accused of sexual misconduct applied for jobs elsewhere. Federal investigators also requested any data CPS had provided to the Tribune for the series, as well as copies of all the documents CPS had reviewed to formulate its responses to the Tribune.

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Chicago Public Schools has failed to protect students from sexual abuse and assault, according to a Chicago Tribune investigation that found hundreds of cases in the last decade. The district itself does not track the problem.

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Thursday’s agreement, which resolves allegations in two specific cases involving former students and more broadly seeks to ensure the district’s compliance with requirements of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in schools. The agreement applies to all district-operated schools, including charter, contract and alternative schools. Its provisions range from how complaints are handled to how records are kept.

“The failures of Chicago Public Schools were widespread, glaring and heartbreaking,” Education Sec. Betsy DeVos said in a statement to the Tribune Thursday. “Too many innocent young students suffered because adults didn’t do their jobs. We will continue to work to ensure every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment, and we will continue to hold schools who fail their students accountable.”

Marcus acknowledged that the district has already taken substantial steps forward. In the wake of the Tribune series last year it launched a new Office of Student Protections and Title IX, adopted a new Title IX policy, created new training materials, conducted new background checks on regular employees and volunteers, realigned its Title IX office and finalized the district’s first Student Bill of Rights.

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CPS officials highlighted some of these improvements in a letter scheduled to be sent to “friends and supporters” Thursday morning. The letter, on behalf of schools chief Janice Jackson, framed the district’s relationship with the office of civil rights as a partnership and told recipients about their new agreement with the Department of Education, calling cases of student abuse “tragic incidents in which some students did not receive the comprehensive support they deserved.”

“As a district, we have been working to ensure no student ever goes through that again,” Jackson wrote.

The district has been rolling out a Comprehensive Plan of Action to protect students, she wrote.

“Our agreement with OCR builds on that plan. It will help ensure our schools are free of harassment, abuse, and discrimination, and ensure our students have the supports they need to overcome challenges and reach their potential,” Jackson wrote. “ … Since 2018, we have left no stone unturned and taken significant steps toward improving Title IX compliance.”

Though he said CPS has “taken some important early steps over the recent weeks and months,” Marcus also said substantial changes still need to be made.

Some of those include making sure students harmed in the past are aware of remedial services and new reporting requirements such as providing certain documents to OCR.

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the district needs to ensure that person has the authority to coordinate the district’s compliance with Title IX, including all investigations, according to the resolution. The district must also take steps to avoid conflicts of interest, including a requirement that any attorneys involved in an underlying Title IX investigation must recuse themselves from handling related litigation against the district. By Nov. 27, CPS must submit documentation indicating they have made required structural changes.

The district must also review the action of current and former district employees who failed to respond appropriately after reports of sexual misconduct or to take appropriate measures against the employees who were responsible.

“We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen ever again in Chicago Public Schools or anywhere else,” said a federal official familiar with the resolution.

The investigation included interviews with current and former district staff and reviews of reports involving more than 400 schools, including 2,800 complaints of student-on-student harassment and 280 claims of adult-on-student complaints. Investigators reviewed documentation related to CPS’s handling of complaints for the 2012-13 through 2017-18 school years. Though the cases reviewed are a representative sample, Marcus said the ratio was about 10 student-on-student complaints for each staff-on-student complaint.

In addition to investigating two specific complaints brought forth in 2015 and 2017, and based on “significant concerns” regarding the district’s compliance with Title IX, the civil rights office opened a systemic districtwide investigation concerning whether CPS had failed to promptly and accurately respond to complaints of sexual harassment and assault.

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Betsy DeVos , nominated by Donald Trump to serve as the next education secretary, refused DeVos – a Republican megadonor, philanthropist and eager patron of charter schools – cast It has done so by calling on colleges to use a lower standard of evidence for discipling students accused of sexual

Chicago Public Schools is looking for teachers, leaders, and non-instructional staff to transform the face of urban education . We are a team of passionate, committed, and talented professionals who believe that every CPS student will graduate prepared for success in college, career, and life.

The civil rights office concluded that the district violated Title IX by failing to properly respond to such complaints, citing the two specific cases along with a broad statement that the district had systemically failed to respond properly to other complaints involving both adult-on-student and student-on-student sexual harassment.

In one complaint, a student reported that during the 2012-13 school year, a teacher commented on her appearance, bought her gifts, texted her photos of himself and expressed his love for her, eventually taking her out, buying her alcohol, then kissing, fondling and forcing oral sex on her in his car despite her begging him to stop. Before the sexual assault, the district had received at least three complaints alleging sexual harassment by the same teacher.

In the other complaint, a student on her way home from school said she was surrounded by 13 boys, at least seven of them students she recognized from school, who repeatedly raped her inside a vacant building.

The OCR review found both cases were mishandled, and that many other complaints alleged ongoing physical sexual harassment, including repeated groping, grabbing or fondling by peers who were repeat offenders. The review noted several cases of adults grooming students for sexual relationships with money, gifts, food, rides, and favor at school; and “numerous” complaints indicating insufficient boundaries between students and educators.

The review also cited the “Betrayed” investigation, which documented widespread failures in the district’s response to student claims of sexual misconduct by teachers, staff and other students. Marcus said the Tribune series provided “important and valuable” background and that Office for Civil Rights officials continued to conduct their investigation independently.

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Since “Betrayed,” students have continued to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse at school.

According to a July report to the Board of Education by the CPS Office of Inspector General, complaints of sexual misconduct against people who work in CPS had arrived at the district’s inspector general’s office at a rate of nearly three each school day over the past nine months.

Most of the more than 450 allegations related to “leering, ‘creepy’ or other concerning behavior” by a staff member, contractor or volunteer, but almost 20% of the claims involved penetration, groping or other sexual contact, and 10 adults affiliated with the district were charged criminally with sexual assault, sexual abuse or indecent solicitation of a minor, according to the report.

“While we have made significant progress, we will not be satisfied until I and every CPS parent believes we have created a safe and supportive district culture,” concluded Jackson’s letter Thursday. Stating the resolution will ensure better communication and transparency from the district, the letter asserted she looked forward to partnering with “families, educators, and community and civic partners, including OCR, to lead the nation in creating safer, stronger schools where the rights of every person are valued and supported.”

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©2019 Chicago Tribune

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9/11 moment of silence is now the law in New York schools.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law which mandates public schools across the state to allow a brief moment of silence each year to mark the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images Public schools across New York will now offer a brief moment of silence on the anniversary of 9/11. The law is intended to "encourage dialogue and education in the classroom" and to ensure that future generations understand the 2001 terrorist attack that took the lives of more than 3,000 people and its place in history, according to a statement from the governor's office.

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