Updated: Dec 18, 2019
If you've been following the news over the last few months, then you've probably heard about the mishandling of complaints at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and wondered what it means for your district. In this blog post, I will provide the 3 key takeaways for your district based upon my experience helping K-12 schools with complaint management over the last thirty years.
Let's begin with a quick recap of what happened and the impacts for CPS. The Department of Education has demanded Chicago Public Schools completely overhaul their Title IX procedures following "a years-long investigation that uncovered thousands of mishandled sexual misconduct complaints in what officials described as "deeply disturbing" and likely the most comprehensive investigation ever undertaken on sexual violence in a major public school system” (US News).
The impacts of CPS' failure to properly handle complaints have been massive:
Immeasurable harm to students and extensive damage to the community’s trust
23 CPS employees fired (as of July 2019)
$4 million in federal funding withheld
Extensive litigation fees to date and massive future litigation risk as previously mishandled complaints are re-evaluated
Complete Title IX process overhaul required
As a district, what are the lessons from this case that will help you shield your students and district from harm and liability?
1. Expect scrutiny of Title IX compliance to increase for K-12 school districts. While the focus has been largely on colleges in the past, the Chicago Public Schools case and several others are raising awareness of the problem of sexual harassment and sexual abuse within elementary and secondary schools.
2. Name AND empower your Title IX Coordinator. The law is clear - you must name a Title IX Coordinator. Chicago Public Schools failed to do so for a period of time and when they did hire one, that person did not receive the full authority warranted. It’s also not enough to name a coordinator, you also have to empower that person with full authority to carry out the responsibilities of their role.
3. Build a culture of accountability and ownership. Do NOT outsource the handling of sexual harassment and sexual abuse complaints to a legal team. Chicago Public Schools did so for years and thousands of complaints were mishandled. In order to create a safe and effective learning environment, you need to own your legal AND ethical responsibility as a district. Find the right leaders within your district and empower them with the tools and authority they need to create change. Train your employees so they can identify, intervene, and investigate complaints.
Let's create safer schools together. Click here to learn more about certifying your district’s local trainers to teach our McGrath curriculum in highly effective investigation skills, techniques and protocols.