Citing ‘Widespread’ Failures, Education Department Orders Chicago Public Schools to Toughen Sexual Misconduct Policies

In a letter Thursday announcing the federal agreement, Janice K. Jackson, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, wrote that since 2018, the district had “left no stone unturned and taken significant steps toward improving Title IX compliance.”

She outlined several changes that the school system has made in recent years, including establishing a new Office of Student Protections and Title IX and turning over investigations of adult-on-student sexual abuse to an independent arm of the district. The system has also rechecked the backgrounds of all its employees.

“These were tragic incidents in which some students did not receive the comprehensive support they deserved,” Ms. Jackson wrote of the Education Department’s findings. “As a district, we have been working to ensure no student ever goes through that again.”

The department’s Office for Civil Rights launched its investigation following two complaints against the district from students in 2015 and 2016. Investigators reviewed the district’s handling of complaints dating back to 2012, including 2,800 student-on-student sexual harassment complaints, and 280 adult-on-student complaints.

In addition to multiple Title IX violations, Mr. Marcus said the department found “disturbing” incidents, and he called the district’s response “inexcusable.” The department found that the school district for more than a decade had failed to meet basic requirements of Title IX, such as appointing a coordinator to facilitate complaints.

In a scathing report, the department outlined several instances in which the district failed to properly support students after they had been groped, grabbed and fondled by peers and failed to take action against adults who engaged in misconduct — including sexual relations — with students.

In one case that investigators called “egregious,” an instructor was accused of sexually harassing students throughout his 20-year career. He would touch students, tell sexually explicit jokes, compare students’ bodies to their peers, stare at their breasts, caress their thighs and stomachs and touch their buttocks. He would stroke them inappropriately, the report said, “starting from the top of their backs to the small of their backs.”