FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, June 15, 2018
CPS Office of Communications
Chicago Public Schools announced today that before school begins in the fall, all adults who regularly work in schools – including CPS employees, coaches, volunteers, and vendors – will go through a re-check of their background. This unprecedented step to promote student safety builds on the comprehensive Plan of Action
the district outlined earlier this month to protect students and will ensure that every adult who works in CPS schools contributes to a safe educational environment.
In recent years, CPS has made significant improvements in its centralized background check processes, which exceed the requirements of state law. The background checks that occur over the summer will guarantee that all current staff, vendors, coaches and regular volunteers are evaluated through the stringent process that has been in place since 2012. Background checks are already required for all adults who work regularly in schools, and more than 157,000 employee, vendor and volunteer background checks have been conducted since 2012.
“Creating a safer school district for our students means doing everything possible to ensure our students are surrounded by trustworthy adults,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “As we work to carry out our comprehensive Plan of Action to strengthen student protections, we are taking the unprecedented step this summer of re-checking the backgrounds of all adults who will be in our schools next year. I want parents to have comfort that all of the adults in our schools will safeguard their children, and this is an important and necessary step toward rebuilding the faith and trust that our parents have in their school district.”
Ensuring Consistent, Stringent Background Checks for All Adults
In recent years, the district has taken several steps to strengthen background checks and ensure the processes and procedures in place are among the strongest in the country.
Currently, all employees, vendors, coaches, and volunteers who work with children on a consistent basis are required to undergo background checks. However, until now, employees were not re-checked during the course of their employment. This meant that employees who were hired many years ago were not evaluated under the full scope of checks in place today.
To ensure that all adults who work with children have been evaluated under the current, stringent background checks, all CPS employees, regular volunteers, coaches and vendors will be re-checked over the summer. CPS notified staff of this responsibility today and provided details on how they can go through a re-check at their convenience before classes begin in the fall.
Recent Commitments to Further Strengthening Background Checks
On top of improvements to the background check process in recent years and the unprecedented step to re-check all employees before the beginning of the year, CPS has committed several additional measures that will further protect students in schools throughout Chicago:
- Beginning this fall, employees will go through periodic background checks to ensure the district has the most up-to-date information about any new arrests or convictions. While the Illinois State Police, Chicago Police Department, and other agencies notify CPS when an existing employee is accused or convicted of a crime, no system is perfect. Ongoing background checks provide an additional avenue to learn about employees who are accused of or commit crimes after they’ve been hired.
- Before school begins in the fall, CPS will establish a centralized eligibility process for all athletic coaches and assistant coaches, whether volunteers or employees. This will enable CPS’ Sports Administration Department to better ensure coaches are not only screened effectively, but are also trained prior to beginning coaching activities.
- Beginning this summer, all vendors who are in schools will be required to undergo a background check through the district’s centralized background check process to ensure they are held to the same stringent standards as other adults in school buildings. Vendors were previously required to go through a background check process mandated by Illinois law, but not all vendors previously utilized the district’s comprehensive process.
- By next fall, the district will create an inventory and tracking system of all vendors, volunteers and coaches who work in schools to help ensure that school-based volunteers and vendors are properly vetted and tracked through the district’s centralized background check process. CPS will also require that principals formally attest to the fact that all adults in their building have gone through this process. If a staff member, vendor, volunteer or coach has not gone through a background check or been re-checked, the individual will not be permitted at school.
Previous Steps CPS Has Taken to Strengthen Background Checks
CPS’ background check process has surpassed state standards for many years, but in recent years a renewed focus on strengthening background checks has been underway. Notable policy changes to better protect students include:
Mid-1990s: CPS began requiring all new applicants to pass a fingerprint-based background check, a requirement that was not mandated by the state until 2004.
2011: CPS created a formal, centralized Criminal Background Process and Committee to review all prospective employees’ backgrounds before they could be hired.
2012: CPS’ Criminal Background Committee began to consider misdemeanor convictions to exclude applicants from employment.
2014: CPS began requiring coaches and other volunteers who are regularly in schools to pass a fingerprint-based criminal background check before volunteering at a school.
2016: CPS’ Criminal Background Check Committee began to consider arrests that did not lead to convictions (e.g., a guilty plea with a sentence of supervision) to help determine if applicants are not fit for employment in the district.
2016: CPS began to check all prospective employees with the Department of Children and Family Services for findings of child abuse or neglect. CPS also began a process in late 2016 to review the backgrounds of 38,000+ CPS employees in partnership with DCFS.
2017: CPS reached agreements with nearly all Chicago charter school networks to ensure prospective charter school employees’ background checks would be as rigorous as the checks CPS performs.
2017: CPS advised charter schools of employees who were previously dismissed from CPS for issues involving physical abuse.
Plan of Action to Protect Chicago’s Children
Nothing is more important to Chicago Public Schools than the safety and wellbeing of our students, and to ensure CPS is doing everything possible to prevent abuse, the district has developed a comprehensive Plan of Action to protect Chicago’s children.
As CPS works to execute its Plan of Action, the district will be keeping parents updated on a regular basis through a new web page at CPS.edu/ProtectingStudents
Most importantly, if you suspect abuse, please report it immediately to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services at 800-25-ABUSE.
Chicago Public Schools serves 371,000 students in 646 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.