LINCOLN PARK — Chicago Public Schools is moving to fire one coach and reinstate two others months after they were suspended from Lincoln Park High School amid widespread allegations of misconduct.
District officials are still withholding details about the incidents, parents say, pushing them to demand specifics about why the coaches were ousted in the first place in January and February.
At the time, the boys basketball team’s season was suspended and a number of top administrators were ousted: interim principal John Thuet and assistant principal Michelle Brumfield were “removed from their positions”; Lions head basketball coach Pat Gordon was suspended; interim head boys basketball coach Donovan Robinson, girls basketball coach Larry Washington and dean John Johnson were “reassigned.”
The oustings were due to “multiple allegations of serious misconduct involving the athletics program at Lincoln Park High School.”
CPS officials said they plan to hold a termination hearing for Gordon, the basketball coach, claiming the district found “serious misconduct” while investigating accusations that sparked his suspension in January. The hearing was announced in a letter sent late Tuesday to the Lincoln Park community from CPS Network Chief Laura LeMone.
When Gordon was suspended in January, CPS officials said the district had received a report of misconduct involving the boy’s basketball team during what they later called an “unauthorized” overnight trip to Michigan.
LeMone’s letter also announced girls basketball head coach Washington and interim head boys basketball coach Robinson would have their jobs reinstated. They were “reassigned from their duties pending the outcome of” investigations in early February, the district said at the time.
“While misconduct was substantiated, the district determined that it is appropriate for Mr. Robinson and Mr. Washington to return to their respective instructional positions,” LeMone said in Tuesday’s letter.
Washington and Robinson will receive “training and support” from CPS, according to the letter.
“We take all allegations extremely seriously, and these investigations were necessary to ensure that your child’s safety will continue to be appropriately safeguarded,” LeMone said. “With these investigations behind us, I am confident that Lincoln Park will be a stronger and safer school community.”
But parents at the high school say the letter, which was sent as an attachment to an email labeled as a general monthly update, is too vague and offers no information on Gordon’s pending dismissal or the misconduct the district uncovered.
“The fact that they’re reinstating these coaches after the serious charges they levied must mean whatever happened wasn’t so bad,” said John Moser, a parent representative on the Local School Council. “But they were accused without evidence, punished and treated as guilty.”
The situation roiled the Lincoln Park High community this winter, when the CPS inspector general announced the office was conducting four separate investigations into the school.
The investigations involved allegations of teacher-on-student and student-on-student sexual activity, officials told parents at the time. They did not share other specific details, citing privacy concerns from those involved, but said the actions of the adults involved “could not be tolerated.”
As claims of widespread misconduct spread throughout the community, CPS ousted two popular administrators and suspended a handful of coaches and a dean.
The school council, students and teachers backed the ousted administrators and called on the district to further explain why they had to be removed from the school.
“I’ve always supported punishment with proven accusations, but now they’re reinstating people without admitting they didn’t do anything serious,” Moser said. “These accusations have destroyed careers, and CPS need to be held accountable.”
Representatives for CPS did not respond to requests for comment.
William Choslovsky, a lawyer representing the three coaches, also did not respond to a request for comment, but he told the Chicago Tribune he thinks Gordon will overturn his recommended firing.
Choslovsky said CPS officials reported several misconduct allegations — ranging from sexual misconduct to financial mismanagement of athletic program accounts, improper student discipline and more — and started removing staff members without clarifying which allegations they were tied to.
“They defame all six with one fell swoop,” Choslovsky told the Tribune.
The school’s parent action group released a statement Wednesday calling for an investigation into CPS’ handling of the misconduct claims.
“Why won’t CPS tell our community what really happened? Maybe because CPS wildly overreacted [and] made errors,” the parent action group stated. “CPS must be held accountable for sowing chaos at LPHS, ruining educators’ lives and reputations, and then, in the quiet of the night, backtracking.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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