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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Briefed On Lincoln Park High Allegations, School Council Chair Says He Supports Ousted Principals

CPS officials met with three school council members days after a parent sued the district, alleging the school failed to protect his daughter from being sexually assaulted.

Lincoln Park High School is located at 2001 N. Orchard St.
Justin Laurence/ Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — Amid chaos at Lincoln Park High School, three members of the Local School Council met with Chicago Public Schools officials Tuesday evening to learn more about the investigations that led to the ouster of top administrators.

After the three-hour meeting with CPS officials, Amy Zemnick, a community representative on the school council, said the district shared more details about some of the allegations that led the district to launch five investigations and the removal of four administrators, including the school’s principal and assistant principal; two boys basketball coaches; and the girls basketball coach. Late last week, a Lincoln Park parent sued the district, alleging the school failed to protect his daughter from being sexually assaulted by another student at the school.

The Local School Council has been staunch in their support for three administrators who were removed from the school in January: interim Principal John Thuet, Assistant Principal Michele Brumfield and dean John Johnson. 

After the marathon meeting, LSC Chair Gary Rovner said the School Council remains in support of the administrators, but they need to speak to the whole council before commenting further.

“We do stand behind them, absolutely, but we need to go back to our council and talk through all the details as a council,” he said.

The investigations involve allegations of sexual misconduct, retaliation and interference with investigations and serious misconduct that led to student harm, CPS officials told parents last week.

RELATED: Chaos At Lincoln Park High: Sexual Misconduct, Coverups, Retaliation And More Under Investigation

Zemnick said the CPS allegations are “serious.”

“It is terrible to think of the students who suffered. Any student who has been harmed must be protected. However, the way in which CPS has engaged in its investigations remains unclear,” she said.

Zemnick and Rovner were joined by Sean McGuire, a teacher representative to the council. They said they agreed to relay what they learned to the rest of the Local School Council before sharing investigation details with the public.

“We have a lot to process, to think about, we want to have the opportunity to talk with our colleagues about what information we received this evening,” Zemnick said.

On Monday afternoon, ahead of the Tuesday sit down with CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade, the LSC sent a letter to CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson requesting a face-to-face meeting with her.

The Local School Council members wrote that Thuet, Brumfield, and Johnson should not have been let go unless “they engaged in egregious, intentionally harmful misconduct,” and cast doubt on the motivations for the firings, saying the “school’s administration was decapitated in what appears to be a test pilot for a new CPS policy,” the letter reads.

The letter describes the three as “change-makers” that may have made mistakes, but charges that the district had been made aware of “serious security concerns and culture problems at Lincoln Park before these administrators arrived” and that those leading the district should be the ones held accountable.

Late last week, a Lincoln Park parent filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education that claims the school failed to adequately protect his 15-year-old daughter from being sexually assaulted by another student, a minor, at the school on Jan. 13. The suit names the alleged attacker but he has not been named as a defendant in the lawsuit or charged with a crime. The lawsuit was filed anonymously — both the victim and father’s names were withheld.

The lawsuit claims the school “failed to provide adequate security on the premises” to prevent the assault, and “failed to implement appropriate policies to prevent the sexual abuse of minors on school property.”

The suit seeks a sum in excess of $50,000 dollars, according to the lawsuit.

CPD spokesman Steve Rusanov confirmed on Tuesday that detectives are still investigating the alleged assault. The victim said the assault happened inside the school after the school day.

“The victim and offender were engaged in mutual contact. When the victim refused furtherance, the offender forced the victim into sexual acts,” he said.

The LSC and CPS officials were originally scheduled to meet last Thursday, but CPS rescheduled the meeting when they learned Rovner would be unable to attend, and that he recused himself from discussing the matter.

Rovner told Block Club on Tuesday that his law firm has done work for CPS in the past and he recused himself out of caution. He attended Tuesday’s meeting at CPS’ request but going forward he would again remove himself from discussions, he said.

Zemnick said that neither Jackson or Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended the meeting despite the council asking to meet with them.

On Friday, Lightfoot said she’d be willing to meet with the LSC, but praised CPS’ handling of the situation, saying it was “absolutely necessary that CPS act and act definitively, because students were being put at risk.”

Local school councils provide an oversight role in CPS schools. They review budgets, evaluate principals and have a role in selecting new principals by recommending an applicant, although CPS has the ultimate power to make new hires.

The LSC will hold it’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the school. The meeting is open to the public.

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