UPTOWN — An Uptown family is suing Chicago Public Schools, alleging a McCutcheon Elementary preschool student was dragged through a school hallway earlier this year and district leaders failed to report it to the child’s parents, according to the family’s lawyer.
The four-year-old boy, whom Block Club is not naming, was a preschooler at McCutcheon, 4865 N. Sheridan Road, when a security guard dragged him through the halls of the building, according to the boy’s family and attorney Michael Jarard.
The incident allegedly occurred March 2, but the family only learned of it in late April when the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services contacted the family about the case, Jarard said.
CPS would not provide the family or their lawyers any information about the incident. But in a letter dated Nov. 2, district officials said an investigation confirmed that the abuse against the child did occur, Jarard said.
The boy’s family now is hoping the federal lawsuit will help them obtain more information about what took place and the school district’s plans to address the situation.
“It has been six long months and I still don’t know what happened,” said Shanece Williams, the boy’s mother. “How could you not protect a 4-year-old child?”
A CPS spokesperson declined comment on the lawsuit but said in a statement the allegations involve a security officer.
“While the district cannot comment on ongoing litigation, the district takes allegations of student harm seriously. The safety of our students is the district’s highest priority and we are committed to creating safe and supportive school environments,” the statement reads.
It is not clear what led up to the incident, according to the boy’s family. The boy did not require medical attention, and the injuries are “mental in nature,” Jarard said.
Williams and her family were not informed about the incident, but someone at the school reported it to DCFS, Jarard said. The boy has a disability, according to his mother.
DCFS then contacted the family, tipping them off to the incident. But when they turned to school and CPS officials, the family was told the district could not comment on an ongoing investigation, according to Jarard.
“They have continually tried to cover up, hide and conceal what happened, even to his mother,” said Jarard, a partner with Shiller Preyar Jarard Samuels Law. “They are trying to silence abuse in our schools. We will not stand for it.”
A representative for DCFS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Before the incident, the four-year-old boy liked police officers and dressed up as one for Halloween. But now, the sight of an officer frightens him and stokes anxiety, Williams said.
“I felt so heartbroken,” Williams said. “I couldn’t protect my baby from harm.”
In the district’s letter to the family, an official said discipline would be forthcoming against the security guard, Jarard said. Jarard said the family learned of the guard’s identify in the November letter, but said they haven’t determined if he is a member of the Chicago Police Department. A person by the same name is listed as a Chicago Police officer in public records.
Chicago Police declined to comment.
The allegations come amid a contentious debate about the role of security and police officers in CPS schools as well as school discipline.
CPS employs school resource officers in 72 of its 93 district-run schools, according to a presentation the district made on the program in June. The school district last year approved a $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department to provide school resource officers.
During the social justice movements that were sparked this summer, activists in Chicago pushed for CPS to cancel its contract with the police department.
City officials instead allowed individual school councils to decide whether to cancel or continue their school resource officer contracts. The majority of schools opted to retain police officers, but more than one dozen high school governing bodies moved to oust police presence from their campuses.
Nationally, there have been several controversial incidents of police or security officers arresting and detaining small children in school, including the handcuffing of a six-year-old girl in Orlando, Florida last year.
The boy’s family is seeking justice for him and transparency in the case’s discipline process, while also seeking to help reform a school safety program they say continues to harm minority students.
“We’re going to make sure this type of culture is destroyed,” Jarard said.
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November 17, 2020 at 08:18PM