CHICAGO (CBS) — Parents of elementary-aged special needs students who have been strangled, beaten, and dragged at the hands of their teachers are speaking out about what they say is really going on in some Chicago Public Schools classrooms.
Those families will be at the Dirksen Federal Building courthouse Tuesday morning, demanding investigations and answers from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and Chicago Police Department.
Jamari Black is 11 years old, and he’ll never breathe on his own again.
“He said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.’ He said, ‘I’m tired of them messing with me at this school,'” Jamari’s mom said.
Jamari didn’t want to go back to school, where he said he was constantly picked on by students and teachers alike. The fourth grader attempted suicide. Deprived of oxygen for more than 11 minutes, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and more, according to family attorney Jon Erickson.
He will need care for the rest of his life.
“It’s child abuse is what it boils down to,” he said.
CBS 2 first told this story in April, and now there are more federal lawsuits filed against CPS.
“Chicago Public Schools is aware of it. The Chicago Public Schools have been put on notice about it,” he said. “And the Chicago Public Schools has chosen to ignore it, and so it continues to happen.”
Erickson represent three other families.
One is the family of a special needs student at Carter G. Woodson South Elementary school, just like Jamari. Erickson says he was dragged headfirst down a flight of stairs and choked by a special needs teacher, who was fired and criminally charged.
Another family is at South Shore Fine Arts Academy where the dean of students was arrested and charged with aggravated battery for choking a special needs student, according to Erickson.
A third family Erickson works with is that of a second grade special needs student at Horizon Science Academy, a public charter school outside of CPS. The student was forced to sit facing the wall of the classroom for months, according to Erickson.
Those cases and more are behind the organized protest outside federal building Tuesday morning.
“Each of these incidents have been reported by the parents, and police reports have been made with no follow up,” Erickson said.
He said now it’s time someone listens.
“Tomorrow we’ll be calling on [Cook County State’s Attorney] Kim Foxx to do her job and to investigate this,” he said. “She has been silent on these issues and is aware of them.”
The group is planning to be at Dirksen Federal Building before 11 Tuesday morning.
Erickson said his next step is to reach out to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The official spokesperson for Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park, Dr. Christopher Murphy, responded to this story (and the information attributed to attorney Jon Erickson and the federal lawsuit) with the following;
“The student involved in the situation does not receive any special education services,” and “The family has long been involved with the school on providing a safe and secure location for the student to learn and be active within his classroom. By inferring that he sits in the corner paints an ugly and unfair image- while he does receive preferential seating in the classroom as an intervention for his ongoing disruptive behavior, the student fully participates in group activities and receives all opportunities and supports to be successful in school.”
Chicago Public Schools spokesman Emily Bolton said in a statement: “CPS is committed to fostering safe and welcoming learning environments in all schools, and the district has no tolerance for adults who harm or fail to protect students. All allegations of bullying and student harm are taken seriously by the district, and we are fully committed to ensuring all students are supported and adults are held accountable.”
The district says it is limited in what it can provide due to student privacy law. It does confirm district representatives did communicate with Jamari’s family following the incident.
“This is a horrible tragedy, and the thoughts and prayers of the Chicago Public Schools community are with Jamari and his loved ones. The allegations that have been made are highly concerning, and the district is conducting a full investigation,” Michael Passman said in a statement in April.
The district previously said it launched an investigation, reached out to Jamari’s family to provide support, and deployed crisis assistance resources to students and staff at Woodson.
The district cited its anti-bullying policy, saying it does not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form and CPS will hold any adults accountable if it is determined they violated district policy.