Inter-American Magnet School, 851 W. Waveland Ave. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

LAKEVIEW — A Lakeview school principal has resigned weeks after she reported a Black mom to state authorities for being late picking up her son, but parents say their school community is still fractured and needs more intervention from the district to begin healing.

Daniela Bylaitis, principal at Inter-American Magnet School, 851 W. Waveland Ave., announced her immediate resignation late Tuesday in an email sent to the school community. She is voluntarily transitioning into a “non-school-based role” at Chicago Public Schools, CPS spokesperson James Gherardi said.

Block Club reported in March that JaNay Dodson, who also is a CPS teacher, was reported to Department of Children and Family Services because her 10-year-old son was picked up from IAMS seven minutes past the district deadline due to an issue with busing routes at the school. Dodson’s son commutes from Hyde Park to attend IAMS.

The move outraged other parents and CPS teachers who said Bylaitis overstepped in applying the district’s policy of contacting police or DCFS when a child is left unattended at school. Dodson said at the time she’d tried numerous times to reach the school to inform them her brother would be arriving to pick up her son, but no one responded to her phone calls and messages.

Bylaitis did not reference the DCFS incident or any other concerns raised by parents in her letter, but said she was “transitioning to the next phase of my career.”

“I will miss the wonderful parents and students I have had the opportunity to work with and I will take many fond memories with me,” Bylaitis wrote.

On Monday, retired Chicago Public Schools principal Carlos Munoz, who works in the office of principal quality, will take over Bylaitis’ duties as administrator-in-charge while a permanent principal is selected. A parent meeting about the school’s leadership change and transition plans will be held Monday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Bylaitis said in her letter.

Dodson said she broke down in tears of joy after learning that Bylaitis quit. She still wants the district to investigate Bylaitis’ use of CPS policy to report her to child protective services and place the former principal on a “Do Not Hire” list for other schools.

“I was ecstatic, but I don’t want the board to think that her resigning from IAMS is fixing the problem, because it’s not,” Dodson said. 

JaNay Dodson poses with her son, Braylin Harvey, in their Hyde Park building on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The principal’s resignation comes after several weeks of pushback from IAMS parents who said the recent controversy around Dodson was only the latest in a long pattern of poor judgement at the school.

Dodson has spoken to several other parents at the school who have all been late picking up their children, particularly as the district has struggled to finalize busing schedules when in-person learning resumed last month. But none said they’d ever been reported to DCFS or police, Dodson said. She believes she was targeted by Bylaitis because of her race.

Soon after Dodson went public about what happened, several other parents came forward with stories accusing school leaders of doing nothing when they reported that their own children were being abused, neglected or bullied at the dual-language, Pre-K and K-8 magnet school.

One mother, Beatriz Gomez, alleged a school staffer inappropriately touched her daughter in January 2020, and said she was discouraged by Bylaitis and school teachers from reporting the incident.

Gomez said she filed the report anyway. School leadership never followed up with Gomez about the incident, even though Bylaitis sent a letter to parents, obtained by Block Club Chicago, stating a Title IX investigation was taking place.

“I feel great about Dr. Bylaitis quitting, but I still want her to be investigated and everyone in that school clearly needs to be re-trained in Title IX reporting,” Gomez said.

Dodson and Gomez were among a group of eight school parents who signed a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Board of Education and other CPS leadership requesting Bylaitis’ immediate removal.

In the letter to CPS leadership, they listed a series of demands to address the school’s “growing culture of explicit bias and discrimination, unaddressed bullying and neglect.”

The parents’ other demands include:

  • Ensuring Bylaitis cannot be hired as principal at any other Chicago Public Schools;
  • Bringing on crisis intervention counselors to help mediate and heal the school;
  • Instituting antiracist policies and procedures, and provide training on them for teachers, staff and administrators
  • Retraining all school employees on Title IX procedures.

“We’re going to continue this fight until we truly get justice for all the parents and children that have been wronged,” Dodson said. “Each of these families needs closure and to know something was done for the situation.”

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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