Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) at June 20 CPS sexual abuse hearing.
There is no excuse for the sexual abuse in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), according to two GOP lawmakers, who said they are outraged by what can only be seen as a cover-up.
Holding an impromptu Joint Senate & House Elementary & Secondary Education Hearing on June 20 over the Chicago Tribune’s expose on CPS, state Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) and Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) shared their dismay with CPS Chief Talent Officer Matt Lyons and Chief of Safety and Security Jadine Chou after hearing testimony by two former students who said they were sexually abused.
“We want to share our apologies from the Chicago Public Schools to the two of them, as well to the other victims who have come forward throughout this ordeal,” Chou said.
Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris)
Chou said CPS is addressing the issue, even hiring Assistant U.S. Attorney Maggie Hickey to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the district’s failed policy and procedures that to date have included hiring sex offenders without proper background checks and not calling law enforcement when a sexual abuse case is identified.
Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock), however, was not willing to accept the district's apology for the allegedly abuse that reportedly has been going on since 1984.
“I cannot believe the people that have been in CPS all these years haven’t known that this is going on,” Reick said. “You have teachers being fired and then they go somewhere else because you won’t tell the other schools that these guys have been molesting children.”
The dumping and shifting of teachers accused of abuse must end, he added.
“This is the same thing that happened in the Catholic churches in the '90s,” Reick said, adding CPS’ failure will inevitably end in financial disaster. “How much liability is sitting here that is ultimately going to fall on the taxpayers of Illinois if this thing blows up any bigger than it already is?”
After reading aloud headlines from the Chicago Tribune dating as far back as the late '80s, Reick said he was outraged.
“People going back 32 years did nothing,” he said. “You shoved it under the rug, and took young ladies and told them it’s your fault.’”
Reick said CPS’ current promises are futile, which is why he demanded that his Freedom of Information Act request for all emails regarding any sexual abuse since 2007 be fulfilled as soon as possible. Rezin came right out and asked CPS officials to be honest with her.
“If the Chicago Tribune did not do their expose on or this investigative reporting, would we be sitting here today with this action plan that you just gave us,” she asked while holding up a document.
“The only honest answer is probably not,” Lyons said. “The Tribune investigation certainly put on full display the problems that we have had at CPS.”
After Rezin noted she appreciated Lyon’s honesty, she brought up how he continued to mention one case is too many and how that is not an excuse.
“I don’t believe this is an oversight; this stops very short of being a cover-up over all of these years," she said.
What most disturbs Rezin, she said, is when victims have come forward with their allegations CPS' course of action has been to discredit them and try to destroy their reputations by asking “what were you wearing, what did you say.”
“This is 2018 and we still have courageous victims coming forward being asked if they are the reason this happened,” Rezin said.
One of Rezin’s biggest concerns was CPS' failure to provide advocates to students.
“You have victims sitting in rooms being interrogated where their parent isn’t even allowed to be with them,” she said. “These are minors, 14-year-olds.”
Rezin said her worry was how sex offenders are even hired into the district without proper background checks.
“Data needs to be reported to ISBOE (the Illinois State Board of Education) and law enforcement,” Rezin said.
Both Reick and Rezin said change must take place immediately.