Student-on-Student Sexual Assault Cases in Chicago Public Schools
The Chicago Tribune recently published an article detailing its lengthy investigation into student-on-student sexual attacks in the Chicago Public School district. In it, reporters recount the story of numerous students who were the victims of sexual assault, including the account of a Bogan high school student represented by Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. attorney Carolyn Daley Scott.
According to the student’s family, he was assaulted by a fellow student with a history of sexual aggression and violent outbursts, dating back to his time in kindergarten. Like most students with a special-education plan, this student was required to have constant supervision at all times, including on trips to the bathroom. However, there was no supervisor around when he reportedly assaulted his victim in a high school bathroom.
The aggressor, nearly a foot taller and considerably bulkier than his victim, reportedly forced his victim to pull his pants down and bend over before assaulting him. According to the records, he was repeatedly left unsupervised that year, assaulting the same victim another two times in two other bathrooms.
"The bottom line is I blame the school because no one was watching them," said the alleged victim's mother. "It shouldn't have happened."
According to the Chicago Tribune’s report, this was not the aggressor’s only victim – he had a history of sexual assault, and his special-education plan noted that he was a danger to both himself and to others. However, when this victim’s parents learned of the assault and brought it to the attention of the school, school officials severely mishandled the situation. According to Bogan school official, the victim was repeatedly questioned about the assault, something that child-welfare experts say can inflict additional damage to victims.
When the whole family arrived at the school the next day to speak with the principal, Alahrie Aziz-Sims, as well as other school officials, the principal spent the meeting eating her breakfast.
"She was nonchalant, like this wasn't a big deal," said the boy's mother.
During that meeting, the school’s principal asked the son to re-enact the assault, and asked him whether or not it hurt.
"Now, that's a stupid question," his mother said. "It wasn't appropriate. The whole thing was unprofessional. You don't ask someone, ‘Did it hurt?'"
"He was ashamed," the father recalled of their son. "He was very embarrassed."
Scott spoke with the Chicago Tribune about the case, calling the way school employees handled the situation “horrific”.
"They are supposed to be the advocates for these students, especially students with disabilities who cannot advocate for themselves," she said.
During its investigation, the Chicago Tribune discovered that nearly one third of the victims – 13 out of 36 students – involved in these cases received some form of special-education services. However, the number could be even higher since the details of eight of the students were not available. The Chicago Tribune reporters noted that less than 14 percent of students across the district have special needs, indicating that sexual violence disproportionally affects these students.
In June of this year, the district announces that it will create an Office of Student Protections and Title IX in order to take on student-on-student sexual assault and violence. According to district officials, this office will help to connect victims and families to counseling and support, as well as act as a clearinghouse for sexual assault reports.
"Unfortunately, adults are not the only perpetrators of harassment and abuse in our system, and we have to create a stronger system of support for our principals to ensure that student-on-student cases are handled appropriately," district CEO Janice Jackson said this month at a City Club of Chicago forum. "We also know that students accused of misconduct, they require support as well. Many themselves are victims of sexual abuse and unfortunately carry those behaviors on into adulthood. … CPS, like nearly all school systems throughout this country, has not had a dedicated support system for students in these cases."
The Chicago Tribune piece provides an eye-opening account of just how little these schools have done to protect their students from sexual assault. We highly encourage you to read the full article, which can be found here. At Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P., our Chicago attorneys have dedicated their careers to protecting victims and their families when legal action is the best option available. If you are looking to get in touch with our firm to discuss your case, call us at (312) 313-0202, or fill out our online form to inform us of the details of your situation. We understand just what it takes to secure the legal outcome you need – don’t wait to hire the representation you can count on.