Illinois lawmakers seek changes in schools after CPS sex abuse investigation

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CHICAGO, Illinois (Illinois News Network) – State lawmakers hope to crack down on sexual predators in Illinois’ schools after a investigation showed repeated problems with sexual abuse and assault in Chicago’s public schools.

State Rep. David McSweeney’s filed legislation Wednesday that would make a number of changes, including banning any type of sexual relationship between a student and an authority figure in school. It also would require all complaints of abuse be forwarded to the State Board of Education, and takes an educator under investigation away from the classroom.

A Chicago Tribune investigation found CPS failed to protect hundreds of students from sexual abuse and assault over a 10-year period. It also found lax background checks and failure to report suspected abuse to authorities led to schools hiring educators that would have otherwise been flagged for past problems in the classroom. Some were hired elsewhere after being investigated at CPS. Others went on to commit abuses or be fired by other school districts.

“This is an absolute travesty,” McSweeney said. “It’s a statewide issue, not just Chicago.”

The bill would make engaging in sexual conduct or sexual relations with a student, regardless of age, a criminal offense. This, McSweeney said, is modeled after a Florida law.

“This comprehensive legislation is a solid start and a good base that we can amend as further policy recommendations are given or more legislative gaps come to light.”

One eye-catching provision in the bill is a requirement that law enforcement notify the school superintendent if one of the district’s teachers is arrested.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers could not be reached for comment on the proposed legislation Thursday.

McSweeney said he wants to get the bill passed in November.