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The 'Betrayed' law would help shield students from sex abuse

Tamara Reed, left, and Morgan Aranda testify about sexual assault in Chicago Public Schools during a hearing before the General Assembly's education committees at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in 2018.

The “Betrayed” investigation of sexual abuse in Chicago Public Schools, published in the Tribune a year ago, shocked readers with revelations of rape and harassment of students, followed by inept, damaging investigations. The series brought immediate reforms at CPS and has now driven a bill of potential remedies to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

The proposed legislation makes necessary strides toward protecting public schoolchildren and should become law.


The Tribune uncovered more than 520 times in 10 years that police investigated sexual assault or abuse of a child inside a Chicago public school, a place where students should be surrounded by adults they can trust. It described a sickening range of alleged sexual attacks by teachers, coaches, administrators and staff from the school bus to the lunch room. Background checks of employees were inadequate. Responses to accusations of abuse were botched.

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Weaknesses in Illinois law helped protect predators, the Tribune reported, and the State Board of Education sometimes took years to discipline offenders, leaving students in potential danger for too long. You can read this important work by Tribune reporters David Jackson, Jennifer Smith Richards, Gary Marx and Juan Perez Jr. at


The legislation, which passed the state House and Senate in the last days of the spring session, addresses some of these issues. Educators charged with sex crimes or Class X felonies could be suspended immediately, not only after they are convicted. School districts could share more information about workers with other districts, helping prevent abusers from just starting again in a new location. There’s an additional nudge to school employees who witness abuse to report it.

Lawmakers dropped a provision that would make it a crime for school employees to have sexual contact with a student regardless of the student’s age, leaving individual school districts to implement and enforce such rules.

The bill does nothing to increase transparency by giving the public more access to information about educator misconduct. In Illinois, even if an educator was disciplined by the state, the State Board of Education is not allowed to release records related to his or her misdeeds unless the educator fought license sanctions in a hearing. This obscures facts that would make it clear who shouldn’t be working in schools.

“I dreaded going to school. I cried every night,” Tamara Reed told the Tribune about having a substitute teacher solicit sex with her by explicit text messages when she was 14. Later, legislators shed their own tears as Reed and Morgan Aranda, who said a teacher kissed and inappropriately touched her at age 14, gave powerful, emotional speeches at a committee hearing.

All of us owe it to future students — and the brave survivors who told their stories of abuse to the public and lawmakers — to do everything possible to keep these horrors out of the hallways. CPS acted swiftly after this investigation to provide a safer environment for its 360,000 students. Now the governor can do his part to protect schoolchildren statewide.