Reporter William J. Kelly: Why did Mayor Lightfoot, officials fail to act on the sexual abuse allegations at CPS?

A shocking new report by the Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) details more than 300 cases of sexual assault and grooming of students by Chicago Public School teachers. But the report, issued last week, raises serious questions about the long-known systemic problems of sexual abuse at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), what Mayor Lightfoot knew, and why she failed to act during her first term.

In one instance, the OIG found that a Special Education Teacher groomed an eighth-grade student and had intercourse with the student. The report said that "more than 12,000 calls and text messages were sent between the teacher and student over a seven-month period."

But reports of sexual abuse at CPS were flagged as early as 2018. In 2018, a Chicago Tribune investigation unearned more than 500 cases of sexual abuse of children at Chicago Public Schools over a decade. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized for his handling of the scandal at the time, taking responsibility but not blame for the problem.

What has Mayor Lightfoot, who is running for re-election, done about CPS' sexual grooming and abuse problems since she assumed office in 2019? Questions for Mayor Lightfoot and other elected officials remain, including:

  • Janice Jackson was named CEO of Chicago Public Schools in 2017 and served under Mayor Lightfoot until the fall of 2021. Why did it take so long for Lightfoot to replace or fire Jackson?
  • In 2018, I questioned Jackson about the CPS sexual abuse scandal and she side-stepped the question.
  • I also questioned Sen. Dick Durbin about the CPS sexual abuse scandal and whether he would call for a federal probe of CPS. He refused to answer the question.
  • Why did Sen. Durbin fail to act on the substantiated cases of sexual abuse at Chicago Public Schools? This was at the time he was calling for a federal probe into Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Durbin is one of the co-creators of a federal program (for trauma-informed care) that gave CPS $2.9 million in 2022. But why should CPS receive millions in federal funding at a time when teachers are grooming and sexually assaulting students?
  • President Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos revoked a $4 million grant over the CPS sexual abuse scandal in December 2018. In 2019, CPS entered into a legally-binding agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, pledging extensive reforms in the handling of abuse cases.
  • Under the Biden Administration and due to COVID, CPS has received $593 million in COVID-relief funds that they haven't spent. 
  • The Biden Administration also awarded Chicago Public Schools at least another $4 million this year ($2.9M for trauma-informed care + $1.1M for educator recruitment/retention) despite the unspent millions in COVID funding.
  • According to the 2023 OIG report, Chicago Public Schools spent 77% of the $1.49 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money on employees' salaries and benefits and the district has seen "extra pay" skyrocket. Why is CPS using federal COVID money on employee salaries at a time when this sex abuse scandal at CPS hasn't been addressed?

Before the February 2023 mayoral re-election in Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot should be called to account for these questions and why she has failed Chicago kids.


Chicago reporter William J. Kelly is an independent reporter who contributes to the New York Post and the Daily Mail. Kelly's parents were both Chicago Public School teachers. He is also a graduate of Quigley Seminary South, a Catholic Seminary on Chicago's South Side. He has been covering the CPS sexual abuse scandal since 2018 and penned an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner about the need for a federal probe.