The following was written by Tracy Swartz at the Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Board of Education approved a $1 million payment to a Chicago Public Schools special education student who said he was sexually assaulted in a North Side elementary school bathroom in 2014.
The settlement of the 2018 lawsuit against the district was up for a vote at Wednesday’s monthly board meeting. The district and the boy’s family reached a tentative agreement earlier this month midway through a civil trial.
The suit says that on Sept. 16, 2014, when the boy was 12 years old, another student attacked him in a bathroom at Jordan Community Elementary School in the Rogers Park neighborhood. The alleged victim suffers from “severe physical, developmental and learning disabilities,” according to the suit.
His attorneys, Miguel Ruiz and Rafael Lázaro, say the boy’s special education plan required supervision in the school’s hallways, but an adult didn’t escort him to the bathroom at that time. He was accompanied instead by his alleged attacker, an older child with a history of violence that was known to CPS, according to the suit.
In an interview with the Tribune, Ruiz and Lázaro praised the boy and his family for enduring years of “very difficult litigation.” The boy suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, they said, as “what happened to him is seared into his memory.”
A CPS spokesperson told the Tribune the settlement “resolves the matter in a way that is fair to the student and to the taxpayers who fund the district.”
Also this week, the district reached tentative settlements of two lawsuits involving allegations of sexual assault in a bathroom at Bogan Computer Technical High School on the Southwest Side. Settlement details were not immediately available.
In the first case, which was recently approved for trial, a special education student said in June 2016 that another special education student attacked him on two occasions in a Bogan bathroom. Both boys’ special education plans called for supervision to the restroom. An attorney hired by CPS argued in court this month that the boys were supervised on trips to the restroom, but their plans allowed for independence within bathrooms.
The attorney for the alleged victim, Carolyn Daley, said the alleged attacker went on to sexually assault another special education student in a Bogan bathroom in February 2017. A separate suit was filed by Daley in that case.
“This has been a long journey for our clients after their disabled children bravely came forward to report they were sexually assaulted at Bogan High School. While nothing will ever change what their children experienced due to the failures of Chicago Public Schools, after years of litigation this settlement will provide some justice and healing for these victims,” Daley said in a Wednesday statement to the Tribune.
“Parents should be able to send their children to Chicago Public Schools knowing their children are properly supervised and safe throughout the school day. Our clients hope that the Board of Education for Chicago Public Schools and their employees change their policies and procedures to ensure that all students, not just students within the special education program, are safe and protected from sexual assault within the schools.”
Those two cases were detailed in the Tribune’s “Betrayed” series, an investigation that found widespread mishandling of CPS student sexual abuse and assault cases. The settlements are subject to Chicago Board of Education approval, with the next board meeting scheduled for March 23.
“Chicago Public Schools firmly believes that students who are impacted as a result of a legally-recognized failure on the district’s part should be compensated in a reasonable manner that will remedy injuries to the student,” the district said in a statement Wednesday.