By Megan Hickey

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public School administrators had seven opportunities to take a dean accused of violent behavior out of his South Side school, but failed to removed him, according to a new set of allegations just filed in a federal court case.

Last year, Christopher Thomas, the dean of the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, was charged with choking a 9-year-old special needs student until the boy passed out.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey is digging into claims that CPS employees looked the other way when kids needed them most.

CPS’ Chief Education Officer, a former principal, former assistant principal, and an investigator with the Board of Education are all named in the complaint filed on behalf of the student victim and his family.

The complaint alleges administrators were made aware seven times between 2014 and 2017 that Thomas was hurting — and even choking — students.

Jeff Naumann, as former CPS teacher documented complaints of Thomas hitting students, slapping them in the stomach, hitting them in the face, and even choking another student back in 2014.  His emails detailing those incidents are included in the new court filing.

“I just wanted to stop the behavior to protect the students, and I kept going through the appropriate avenues and nothing was changing.,” Naumann told CBS 2 in October.

A second teacher now has come forward sharing her emails as well, reporting her concerns about Thomas’ violent behavior.

She writes that when she was later interviewed in 2014 about her complaints, she felt like she couldn’t be honest because she was being questioned in front of her bosses who had allowed the behavior to go unchecked.

Four years later, Thomas was arrested and charged with choking the 9-year-old special needs student until the boy lost consciousness.

Jon Erickson, an attorney for victim’s family, told CBS 2: “There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a pattern of violence against special needs children in the Chicago Public Schools.”

Erickson declined to be interviewed about the specifics of this on-going case but he says this case and others involving abusive behavior by CPS employees demonstrate that there has been a lack of accountability.

We reached out to CPS for comment about these new allegations and the employees who were named. So far we have not heard back.

In October, a spokesperson said complaints against Thomas were investigated in the past but they were not substantiated. He was immediately removed from the classroom after the incident in 2018, the spokesperson said.

 

Megan Hickey