Hundreds of Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff stand accused of raping, molesting, and leering sexually at students in their care last year – the first under a new Sexual Allegations Unit formed by the district in 2018.

“During Fiscal Year 2019, the OIG opened 458 SAU cases, including four cases that had been opened by the CPS Law Department before October 2018, when the SAU began investigating cases,” according to a report by CPS’ Office of Inspector General released on Monday.

“The rate of reports received by the OIG fluctuated at around three cases per school day.”

The massive caseload pertains only to complaints involving district employees and students, though in only 11 of the cases students were the alleged offender. The rest involved employees sexually abusing, harassing or offending students or other employees.

The CPS school board created the SAU to investigate sexual abuse cases in the school district after the Chicago Tribune exposed the conflict of interest in the district’s law department, which previously handled complaints while also defending CPS against student sex lawsuits.

The new SAU launched on Oct. 1, 2018 with a mandate to investigate “every case involving allegations that could be construed as sexual or potentially sexual.”

“The SAU works its cases to conclusion, with written reports to the Board on both the substantiated and unsubstantiated cases,” according to the report.

The OIG broke down the cases from 2019 into different categories, with the vast majority – 208 – involving “leering, ‘creepy’ behavior or other potentially concerning behavior.” There was also 64 cases of grooming, or “actions to break down inhibitions for the purpose of sexual conduct,” 46 allegations of actual physical sexual abuse, 45 allegations of inappropriate touching, 37 alleged sexual acts involving penetration, 32 complaints of sexual comments to students, and 7 allegations of “sexual text messages, emails or other communications.”

Chicago police were involved in 75 of the cases, 24 remain active, and 36 were deemed “unfounded.” A total of 15 CPS employees were charged or indicted last year.

“The OIG’s SAU investigations resulted in 155 temporary or permanent CPS personnel actions during Fiscal Year 2019,” according to the report. Those actions involved 109 employees who were removed or blocked from schools, 10 that were reinstated, and 36 that were fired, resigned or retired.

The SAU completed a total of 136 investigations and most of them – 102 cases – were tossed as “unsubstantiated.” The other 34 were reported to the school board with substantiated findings.

The work resulted in 27 cases of policy or guideline violations, three cases of sexual harassment, one violation of the mandatory reporter policy, one case of employees abusing each other, and two cases resulting in criminal charges, according to the report.

The OIG report was spawned by the Tribune’s 2018 student sex abuse series “Betrayed,” which outlined the litany of issues driving rampant sex abuse in the district – from problems with background checks, to failing to notify police of potential abuse, to conflicts of interest in handling cases, to an overall lack of oversight and tracking. The Tribune documented more than 500 cases over a decade, including a track star repeatedly raped by her coach, a choir director with a long history of abuse allegations, security guards groping students, employees recording child pornography and other heinous abuses.

Of course, CPS certainly isn’t the only district struggling to deal with educators who use their position for sexual gratification. The growing epidemic has infected virtually every state in all kinds of school systems, though the problem is seemingly more prevalent in places with strong teachers unions that protect offenders.

Just this week, a former Pennsylvania teacher was sentenced to six to 12 years in state prison for grooming and sexually assaulting at least six different female students in Bucks and Lehigh counties over several years, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Christian Willman, 20, did not have much to say when County Court Judge Wallace Bateman sentenced him on Tuesday, but his victims explained how he groomed them into sexual relationships.

“He took an interest in me in a way that felt exciting and flattering at the time,” one of the victims said. “At 14 years old, these things made me feel special. I know now this was him grooming me to be a victim.”

The women described how they were left damaged emotionally by the relationships, alienated from their own families and unable to trust men. Bateman said the victims came to Willman for mentorship, but “found pure evil masked as a teacher,” the Inquirer reports.

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And it’s not just the students themselves who are suffering the consequences of educators who can’t control themselves. Lawsuits that inevitably arise from the abuse are costing taxpayers millions.

The Marion Independent School District this week settled its sixth lawsuit over recent student abuse, for $2 million, KCRG reports.

That case involved a volunteer who worked at Starry Elementary, where they sexually abused kindergartners in 2015. The volunteer was eventually convicted of abusing three of the students at the school in 2016, prompting several lawsuits.

Combined with payouts for five other families, the now jailed sex offender has cost Marion taxpayers a total of $5,319,000 for his misdeeds.

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