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Corporal Punishment Crackdown In Chicago Schools

Nearly 300 teachers and other school workers were accused of abuse last year at Chicago Public Schools. The number of complaints nearly doubled from previous years.

The dramatic increase may be the result of a better reporting system put into place after 2 Investigator Dave Savini exposed a citywide abuse scandal.

One victim is 10-year-old Donald Shearrill, who says a security guard at Charles Kozminski Elementary Community Academy hit him.

"The security guard whacked me with a belt," Shearrill said. Last year, the students says, he and two friends were fooling around in class when the teacher sent them to a security guard.

"I'll never forget what he did to me," Shearrill said.

His mother Keisha Daxter explains further: "(The security guard) had some belts hanging up, and he made them put their hands on the desk, bend over and he whacked them with a belt."

The mother and son spoke out about corporal punishment, in part, because they were angry at the lack of a CPS investigation. Following a CBS 2 report on the case, school officials looked into his allegations, suspended the principal and fired the security guard.

"Corporal punishment is wholly unacceptable in any form in the Chicago Public School system," CPS CEO Ron Huberman said.

He responded to CBS 2 investigations into abuse with new policies aimed at cracking down on corporal punishment. Huberman says the number of abuse complaints nearly doubled last year.

"I believe that's because we made a very clear message to everyone at CPS that when you see (abuse), you have to report it," he said.

In 2009, 295 investigations were completed and 180 of them -- nearly 60 percent -- were found to be true. As a result, there are 50 school employees facing unemployment. Some were forced to resign while others are facing dismissal charges. Still other employees were given warnings or suspensions.

Changes made by Huberman include speeding up abuse investigations and implementing a computer system to make it easier to report allegations.

"If there's a child in harm's way, we can identify that faster and take action faster," he said.

Our original investigation found 819 other students, dating back to 2004, who had filed complaints that included being beaten with broomsticks, belts, yardsticks and staplers by school staff. One of those students was Treveon Martin at Robert Emmet School.

The 10-year-old's allegations led to a bigger investigation and ultimately the termination of the teacher for using a belt on another student.

In another case, Bruce Zayas says he was repeatedly struck with a wooden paddle at Simeon Career Academy.

"I just remember the pain afterwards," Zayas said. He blamed a coach, and his allegations ultimately led to terminations and resignations of numerous CPS coaches.

Another case that was substantiated happened at Leslie Lewis Elementary School. A kindergarten student was strapped to a table in the basement where, records show, there was a "whipping machine". It took three years for that incident to be fully investigated and exposed.

Huberman says a crackdown on all abuse will continue under his watch. That pleases Donald Shearrill.

"It makes me feel better that no more kids are getting whooped like me," he said.

(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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Posted in: News by SoulRiser on April 4, 2010 @ 10:00 PM

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