LAKEVIEW — A Chicago Public Schools mother said she’s “heartbroken” and considering pulling her kids from their Lakeview school after learning a staffer accused of touching her daughter inappropriately will be reinstated.
Beatriz Gomez was picking up her two children from Inter-American Magnet School, 851 W. Waveland Ave., in January 2020 when a staff member pulled Gomez aside and told her about the alleged misconduct between a school staff member and her daughter, she said.
“They told me he had his hands over her hands as they were touching his face,” Gomez said. “She had one hand on his cheek and the other hand was combing his beard — and he had his hands on top of my daughter’s, guiding her.”
Gomez was discouraged by school leadership from reporting the incident, she previously told Block Club, but she filed the report anyway. A Title IX investigation was then initiated by the district’s Office of Inspector General and the staff member was removed from the school, according to a Feb. 3, 2020, letter sent to the community from then-Principal Daniela Bylaitis.
But on Tuesday, the school’s new principal, Claudia Jimenez, sent a notice to parents that the staffer would be reinstated.
“Based on the information learned during the Office of Inspector General’s investigation, a determination was made that it is safe for our staff member to return to Inter-American,” Jimenez said.
CPS did not share the results of the investigation, only that the staffer had been reinstated.
The issue came up during Inter-American’s local school council meeting Thursday, where Gomez and several other parents questioned the investigation’s outcome and demanded the staffer be removed from the school.
They also blasted CPS for reinstating the staffer after entering an agreement in 2019 with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to implement extensive reforms in its handling of abuse and assault cases.
“I’m very heartbroken with the whole situation,” Gomez said. “I don’t understand how after being under a federal review for mishandling these cases, they could reinstate him. It’s extremely disappointing that the CPS system continues to fail to protect the students — not just my kids, but the entire school.”
Inter-American parent Susan Hartmann said she was in “disbelief” over the staffer’s reinstatement. She questioned whether teachers and other mandated reporters at the school cooperated with the investigation.
“What guarantee do we as parents that they will not keep quiet again and how do we know that they haven’t remained quiet about other cases in the past?” Hartmann said. “I personally cannot allow my daughters to return to an environment where it feels like their well-being and safety appears very low.”
Jimenez learned of the alleged misconduct during the principal selection process earlier this year, she told the local school council.
“I could immediately see how much pain, division and trauma it has brought to this community, and I realize that me sending out that email on Tuesday … may have resurfaced some wounds that were still fresh for a large part of the school community,” she said.
Jimenez has received responses from multiple parents expressing concern over the reinstatement, she said, and she plans to share all those messages with the district departments directly involved with the investigation.
“I am still committed to moving us forward as a community as much as possible and bringing that sense of healing for everyone,” Jimenez said. “I know this decision makes that more difficult, but I invite you to also reach out to those other departments to express your concerns … because it’s important for them to hear it [from parents], as well.”
Jimenez joined Inter-American as principal in May following a turbulent spring at the school, during which several parents came forward with accusations of mishandling cases of abuse, neglect or bullying at the dual-language, pre-K and K-8 magnet school.
The movement started in March after the school reported a Black mother to the state’s Department of Children and Family Services because her 10-year-old son was picked up seven minutes past the district deadline. After JaNay Dodson came forward with her experience, several other parents expressed their concern with the school’s management.
Following the outcry, Bylaitis resigned in April to transition into a “non-school-based role” at CPS, district spokesperson James Gherardi said.
Gomez said her children were looking forward to the school year, but now she’s feeling “scared” about sending them back to the school. She wants the staffer’s reinstatement to be terminated and for the whole school to be retrained in Title IX.
“I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to move both my kids and get them to start fresh at a different school when they’ve been there this whole time,” Gomez said. “But if he’s not removed, I will definitely be moving my kids because I don’t want them to be around this man.”
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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