Chicago names new Title IX officer to protect students from assault and harassment

Nearly nine months since news broke of widespread sexual abuse of students, Chicago Public Schools has hired a chief for the office it formed to protect them.  

Camie Pratt will oversee efforts in Chicago Public Schools to protect students from sex or gender discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment. The position is called Title IX officer, for the section of federal law outlawing discrimination.

Pratt served nearly a decade as the Title IX coordinator at the for-profit University of Phoenix, where she trained and oversaw a sexual assault investigations team, developed educational materials and managed a database for sexual assault reporting and tracking.

Chicago schools CEO Janice Jackson announced Pratt’s hiring at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. “We have total confidence that she will bring the same level of commitment to CPS that she has in her past experiences,” Jackson said.

Last summer, the Chicago Tribune revealed the school district’s decade-long mishandling of student sexual abuse investigations, which unfolded under a succession of school chiefs. In response, Jackson created a Title IX office to handle student complaints of misconduct by other students and by adults in schools as well as those who don’t work in schools.

As of January, the office had logged more than 900 cases of alleged sexual misconduct.

But the district has come under fire for leaving its new watchdog office without a permanent leader for months.

“This is a really important issue,” said Ald. Susan Garza, speaking at a City Council hearing about the status of the district’s response to the revelations. “Who dropped the ball?”

Pratt will manage about 20 people and is charged with investigating complaints of student or adult abuse of students, as well as recommending changes to district policies.

She will report directly to Jackson.

Before overseeing Title IX operations, Pratt was the vice president of the Office of Dispute Management at the University of Phoenix, where she responded to grievances from students, and faculty, and advised on campus discipline. Before that, she briefly ran a mediation firm focusing on family disputes over issues such as divorces and child custody.