June 20, 2018 - Chicago Tribune | Original article

By Juan Perez Jr., David Jackson and Jennifer Smith Richards Chicago Tribune

Two young women gave powerful testimony to state legislators Wednesday that they had been abused by Chicago teachers they trusted, then victimized by the way school officials treated them after they came forward.

Angry lawmakers thanked them for their courage, then turned on Chicago Public Schools officials, hitting them repeatedly over the district’s failure to protect students.

Speaking to an audience of at least 20 legislators and dozens of observers, former Walter Payton College Prep student Morgan Aranda said she lost her “sense of wonder and excitement” about school after she reported being groped and kissed at age 14 by one of her teachers. School and district officials repeatedly questioned her about the alleged abuse.

“I’m here to shed light on the re-traumatizing, intimidating interrogations, the questions of my dignity, of my intent, of my character” after reporting abuse, Aranda said, pausing at times to wipe tears away. Payton administrators and Chicago Public Schools investigators, she said, subjected her to a humiliating investigation that undermined her story.

“I was pulled from class to sit alone in a room with an old man who asked not how I felt or what they could do to make me feel safe in my school again — but what I was wearing when I had been assaulted,” said Aranda, now 22. “Do you know what it’s like to be made to feel like a criminal, when you are in fact the victim?”

Tamara Reed, who was an eighth-grader at Black Magnet Elementary when a substitute teacher sent her sexually explicit texts and solicited sex from her, spoke about the way school administrators suggested she was at fault for the abuse and the lasting pain the experience has caused.

“I will never be the same again because of what has been done to me. I struggle to connect with people and to trust them. I constantly wonder if the people around me mean well or mean me harm,” said Reed, also faltering at times as she became emotional.

As the young women told their stories, some state lawmakers shook their heads in disbelief, dabbed their own tears and expressed exasperation at the way the students were treated.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, reserved chairs for district CEO Jackson and Chicago Board of Education President Frank Clark, but neither was there to testify. Instead, Jackson sent her top safety administrator, a personnel official and the district’s deputy general counsel.

To read the entire story, visit the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago Tribune - June 7, 2018

By Gary Marx, David Jackson, Juan Perez Jr. and Jennifer Smith Richards | Original story

Illinois lawmakers this week introduced a set of legislative proposals and began planning hearings in response to the Chicago Public Schools sexual abuse scandal.

A bill proposal filed Tuesday listed child protection shortfalls highlighted in a Tribune investigative series and outlined more than a dozen changes to state law. Those measures would swiftly revoke the licenses of educators found by districts to have sexually abused children and would make such disciplinary action more transparent to the public.

The proposed legislation also would make it a crime for school employees to have sexual contact with a student regardless of the student’s age. Under current law, sex with a student is legal if he or she is older than 17 and no force is involved.

Separately, state legislators called for a joint Senate and House hearing within the next two weeks.

“We should seize this moment and stop deferring justice. To fail to do so is to fail in our duty to protect and educate our children,” Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, said Wednesday.

Read more: In The News: CPS sex abuse findings result in proposals to change Illinois law

001collinsSenator Jacqueline Collins delivered a prayer at this year’s Illinois Prayer Breakfast today at the Michael J. Howlett Building in Springfield. Her prayer is below.

Father God, we thank you for this day that you have made.  A day we have never experienced before and a day we will never encounter again.  So, Father, on this special and sacred day, we thank you for the opportunity to gather together as a family of faith, a faith rooted in your love, your mercy and your grace.

Like Moses, we join with our beloved brothers and sisters today, to part the destructive waters of denominationalism and division, and cross over to the promised land of spiritual prosperity and perfect peace.

For the God of endurance and encouragement has called us to live in harmony, for we are one in the Spirit, and have come together like Esther for such a time as this, to rebuild the wall of mutual respect like Nehemiah, to restore the hope of mankind like Jeremiah, and revive the dry bones in the valley of the least, last and lost like the Prophet Eziekiel.

We pray that the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of power and might, the spirit of knowledge and oneness shall rest upon us and anoint us to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, restore sight to the blind and set the captives free. 

For we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, ordained by Him to declare the praises and virtues of Him who has called us out of the darkness of doubt into His marvelous light.

We pray that God continues to bless us with the faith of Abraham, the power of Elijah and the courage and conviction of Isaiah as we seek to be obedient and hear the voice and call of Yahweh to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before our God.

As we depart this place today, may we let our light so shine that people may see our good works and give glory to God, our Father in heaven.  And I pray that the life of Jesus the Christ be our example, the love of Christ our strength and inspiration, and the glory of Christ our ministry and mission.

Amen.

State Senator Jacqueline Collins joined State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, State Senator Mattie Hunter and State Representative LaShawn K. Ford today to speak about the need to reform the Chicago Police Department’s gang member database in light of recent reports by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune highlighting major concerns in how the data set is built, maintained and used. Senator Van Pelt is sponsoring Senate Bill 275 to address these issues. Senator Collins is chief co-sponsor. The following were her remarks to members of the press in Springfield earlier today.

I am Senator Jacqueline Collins, and I stand in support of Senator Van Pelt’s bill today because it addresses the failings of what should be an important tool for keeping our neighborhoods safe. The data set we’re discussing today should be used to help police investigate gang activity and to inform them of possible associations and affiliations. It could be a powerful tool to study gang-related violence. Yet, its use has raised major concerns over how it is built and how it is being used.

We have investigative reporters to thank for recent revelations that have found the data available to be out of date and raised troubling questions about the methods police use to add an individual to the list. Their reports reveal that there are alleged gang members in this database who have celebrated their one hundred and eighteenth birthday, or who are guilty of nothing more than being of a certain race and living in a certain neighborhood. Charges against someone with a name in the database are more severe, and there is currently no process to petition for the removal of one’s name.

We need only look to California – another state with significant gang activity – to see a system which is audited more closely and which informs individuals when their names have been added and allows them the chance to appeal. That is how a system crafted under our Constitution should look. We want to ensure police have the tools they need to fight crime. But a poorly-kept database with little oversight is a blunt and ineffective tool that opens the door for civil rights abuses. We must pass this legislation and make this process worthy of our justice system.

Contact Info

Chicago Office:
1155 W. 79th St.
Chicago, IL 60620
(773) 224-2830

Springfield Office:
M114 Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-1607

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