Here’s what you need to know about CPS’ new $3 million ‘Student Protections’ office

Chicago Public Schools announced Wednesday it will create a $3 million, 20-person department tasked with protecting students from sexual violence and discrimination—from both adults at schools and their classmates. The new Office of Student Protections and Title IX will be led by a Title IX officer—you can find the job description here—who will report directly to CPS CEO Janice Jackson.

The announcement comes amid fallout from a Chicago Tribune investigation that revealed major lapses in how schools handle student complaints of sexual misconduct by teachers, coaches, and other adults. The district has responded by transferring some investigative authority to the Office of the Inspector General, strengthening its background check policy, and removing two principals.  

The new office, which will also handle complaints of misconduct by students—represents a “long-term commitment to ensure learning environments are free from sexual violence, harassment and discrimination,” the release said. The office will help coordinate CPS’ responses to allegations of abuse.

Here’s more information about what the office would do:

  • Refer allegations of sexual abuse to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation.
  • Connect students with advocates and other resources.  
  • Oversee investigations related to student-on-student abuse, bullying and harassment, and ensure student victims are connected to advocate services, counseling, and other supports.
  • Ensure CPS complies with federal Title IX laws meant to safeguard students from discrimination.
  • Provide training to CPS employees to help them prevent, identify, report and respond to sexual misconduct, and make sure that CPS’ policies give explicit guidance about what employees must to do.
  • Compile and share information with the public as appropriate.

The office will be led by a chief who reports directly to Jackson and manages the following three teams:

  1. A training and compliance team focused on developing and coordinating training for staff, students and parents about all forms of sex and gender based discrimination and sexual violence and reporting data about sex discrimination and Title IX compliance.
  2. A Title IX coordination team responsible for coordinating the district’s response to incidents of sexual harassment and abuse against students.
  3. A Title IX investigations team that will spearhead the most serious cases of student-on-student sexual abuse and violence.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey expressed concerns today about ambiguity, saying that some teacher-student situations, such as 1:1 tutoring, could be flagged as inappropriate. He also said CPS needs to do a better job of communicating its sexual misconduct action plan to the union.