Chicago, IL

Resignation Shakes Chicago Public Schools as Head of Special Ed Resigns Over Violations of Physical Restraint Laws

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Pressure to fire CPS Special Education chief over repeated failure to comply with physical restraint laws prompts resignation
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The head of special education at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has tendered her resignation following revelations of widespread violations of physical restraint laws within the district. The departure of the high-ranking official raises concerns about the well-being and safety of students with special needs, as well as the district's ability to provide appropriate support and education for this vulnerable population.

Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union demanded took a no confidence vote in the leadership of Stephanie Jones, chief of the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS). They then insisted that she resign for “dismal failures to protect the district’s most vulnerable students," and for creating "a toxic workplace that has left the department in shambles.” The bulk of CTU's complaint against Jones involved repeated violations of state special education laws, especially those related to the use of physical restraint of students with disabilities.

In a statement following the meeting, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates wrote, “Tonight our members said, enough. Enough with the lack of services and support, enough with ignoring the needs of our students, and enough with violating state law.”

The no confidence vote took place just days after it was disclosed that the district had once again been found to be in violation of state law for employing physical restraints on students, including those with disabilities, despite a State directive to cease the practice until staff received proper training. In a letter addressed to Pedro Martinez, CEO of the Chicago Public School system, the Illinois State Board of Education expressed strong disapproval, stating, “CPS’ complete disregard for the health and safety of its students and blatant violation of state law is unconscionable.”

CPS has pledged to conduct an internal review to assess the extent of the violations and determine the underlying causes. The district's superintendent has assured parents, teachers, and the community that swift measures will be taken to address the systemic issues and to ensure that all students, particularly those with special needs, are provided with a safe and inclusive learning environment. However, given that they have been warned about the illegal use of restraints four times without cleaning up their act, many parents and advocates fail to believe that anything will be done without stronger sanctions imposed.

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