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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.

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