CHICAGO (CBS) — The Morning Insiders stay on the case of taxpayer money used to pay Chicago Public Schools employees on suspension while under investigation.
A social worker reached out to CBS 2 after a previous report. Why is he still on paid leave, even though the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services cleared him months ago?
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory went inside his twisted timeline, and tracked down the head of CPS for answers.
The social worker is stuck, waiting on his future at CPS.
“It’s sort of like just spinning your wheels, wondering if you’re going to have a job, wondering what’s going to happen to you,” he said.
In March, the worker was suspended after he was accused of pulling on a student during an incident at Ella Flagg Young Elementary School.
“I can’t even go on CPS property,” he said.
The employee told CPS investigators his side of the story six months ago. Since then, they haven’t questioned him again.
CPS refused a request for an interview about the district’s suspension process in general. The district also wouldn’t answer questions about the incident on the record, forcing CBS 2 to go to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
CBS 2 obtained the social workers’ DCFS report to see what evidence state investigators considered.
“A red mark that did not look like a hand grip.”
In May, DCFS determined the allegations against the worker were unfounded.
But June, July, and August passed with no answers from CPS about the workers’ job.
Even though he’s still getting paid, he wanted to go back to work.
“I would rather be at work earning an honest paycheck,” he said.
CPS has paid the worker more than $46,000 while he’s been on suspension.
In total, the district has paid suspended employees $12.3 million in the past four years.
In one case, the district doled tou $273,000 for a teacher placed on paid leave for 791 days.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory tracked down CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson and asked her about the big bills the district is racking up.
“What is taking so long to investigate some of these employees? Some of them have been cleared by DCFS for months,” Victory asked.
“If it means spending extra money while employees are out to ensure that our students are safe, that’s a commitment that I’m willing to make,” Jackson said.
The district was slammed for underreporting and mishandling sexual assault and abuse cases last year. That led to the reassignment of those cases to the CPS inspector general (OIG).
“The OIG has been working extremely hard to reduce the amount of time that it takes in order to conduct those investigations,” Jackson said.
That’s not what CBS 2 found.
CBS 2 calculated the average time it took the district to take an employee off paid leave was 67 days before the OIG took over. It’s crept up to 71 days since then.
With cases like this still pending, that average will only go higher, along with spending.
The social worker finally received an update on his case a few weeks after CBS 2 contacted CPS. He now has a pre-suspension, even though DCFS cleared him. The district likely will fire him, or at least suspend him without pay.