WEST LOOP — A Skinner West Elementary School teacher was arrested and charged after allegedly touching a 12-year-old boy inappropriately, police said.
Matthew Baron has been charged with one count of misdemeanor battery after allegedly making physical contact by touching a student’s back, said Kellie Bartoli, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department.
The 39-year-old Baron teaches English Learners and social-emotional learning at the highly-rated Chicago Public School in the West Loop, according to the school’s website.
On Monday, the mother of the 12-year-old child involved told Block Club that the incident happened in mid-March while lights were dimmed in the classroom and students were watching a video.
The mother said Baron touched her son’s leg and put his hand inside the boy’s shirt.
The day she heard about the incident from her son, the mom contacted school officials, the Department of Children and Family Services and the Chicago Police Department.
“It’s important for students to speak out when things like this happen,” the mother said, who believes her son was being “groomed” by the CPS teacher.
“Schools are supposed to be a safe place,… and I couldn’t protect him,” she said. “ I feel guilty.”
Police told WGN that the teacher rubbed a child’s back and made “skin to skin contact for the purpose of sexual gratification.”
According to the report, Baron was released last week after posting bail.
Attempts to reach Baron were unsuccessful.
In a letter to parents, Principal Deborah Clark noticed the Skinner West community that a teacher had been removed following an allegation of inappropriate behavior with a student.
“The employee has been removed from the school and an investigation has been initiated by the Office of the Inspector General,” Skinner Principal Deborah Clark, wrote in a letter dated May 7 — one day before Baron’s arrest.
Clark told parents the school was taking the “situation seriously” and was committed to providing students “a safe, positive learning environment.”
In an email, Chicago Public School officials said if the allegations are substantiated “the district will not hesitate to seek dismissal charges.”
Skinner West parent and Local School Council president Fadi Matalka called the news “disturbing,” but hoped the investigation would play out without “interference” or “rumors” hindering the process.
“While the investigation plays out, our main focus should be on the students,” Matalka said. “We should give the students the support they need to understand what happened, now that the name of the teacher has been made public.”
Since October 2018 to March 2019, the Office of Inspector General has investigated 313 total cases of sexual allegations at the school district.
Among the cases, 167 cases were reported at the elementary school level and 143 cases were reported at the high school level. Three cases were listed as unknown and 138 involved teachers.
Last year, the Tribune detailed hundreds of cases of sexual abuse and rape at CPS schools over the last 10 years. The report highlighted failures by the district to protect its own students from sexual abuse and misconduct.
Following the bombshell report, CPS CEO Janice Jackson told Chicago Tonight that the district took it “seriously.”
“There’s a lot that has been done, but my test is that if there’s one case, that’s one case too many, and so there’s opportunities for us to do a better job,” Jackson said.
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