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Chicago Public Schools settles sex abuse lawsuit for $800,000, while lawmakers demand change

Illinois lawmakers demand change after hearing woman's story of sex abuse by teacher
Illinois lawmakers demand change after hearing woman's story of sex abuse by teacher 04:08

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Public Schools settled a 2019 civil case for $800,000 brought by a former student identified as Jane Doe against the Board of Education and former Gurdon S. Hubbard High School teacher Walter Glascoff.

Doe spoke exclusively with CBS 2 the week her case was set to go to trial about her experience in high school some 20 years ago.

"I still have nightmares almost every night," she said.

She spoke about the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of Glascoff.

"He made me feel like I was a bad person if I didn't care about him," she said.

Doe spoke out after hearing what a CPS-paid defense expert witness testified to in a recent deposition and might have said in court had the case not been settled.

"It's so frustrating," Doe said. "It makes me feel like they're saying that they agree with him that it was fine to do this to me."

The hired expert is Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, a licensed psychiatrist in Illinois. She no longer practices, but she said she has been an expert witness in nearly three dozen cases—60% of the time for the plaintiff and 40% for the defense.

In Doe's case, Dr. Gourguechon testified in the deposition that not all cases of sexual abuse are traumatic. She also said that not all teachers at a school are in positions of authority over students. 

When asked whether it is traumatic when a person experiences a sexual assault, Dr. Gourguechon's answer was: "It depends. It depends on the detail, and how they're defining it; who's claiming what and what actually happened."

In 2018, Doe had told a therapist about the teacher in high school who had sex with her. That therapist reported it to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. CPS launched an investigation. 

Ultimately, the district determined Glascoff had abused Doe. Glascoff had admitted to district investigators that he had sex with Doe while she was in high school. 

Calls for change

After learning of Jane Doe's troubled history, hearing those controversial opinions from the CPS expert, and seeing how CPS lawyers tried to force Jane Doe to reveal her identity right before the start of the trial, lawmakers in Springfield spoke out passionately on the Illinois House floor.

"Why aren't we listening to the children who are being raped?" asked Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock).

Fellow Republican Rep. Amy Elik (R-Alton) asked, "When are we going to protect the children?"

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Curtis Tarver II (D-Chicago) was visibly upset.

"I am beyond frustrated," he said.

Later, Tarver spoke to CBS 2 about the impact Jane Doe's story and CPS' concerning court tactics had on him. His 11-year-old daughter attends a CPS school.

"All that kept going through my mind is, what if this were my daughter?" Tarver said.

Rep. Tarver, Rep. Elik, and others in the House introduced a new bill in the final days of this session.

HB222 would make it clear that sexual assault on students is traumatic.  

"The notion that it would not be automatically traumatic to be abused sexually by an adult is just asinine to me," said Rep. Tarver.

Rep. Elik agreed, "There should be no question from an expensive, highly paid expert witness as to whether or not sexual assault is traumatic."

HB222 also includes language from an earlier Rep. Elik bill that prevents defendants from blaming child sexual abuse survivors in civil lawsuits. 

Both lawmakers expect overwhelming support in the House, but Rep. Tarver wants more. He is demanding that Mayor Brandon Johnson fire CPS General Counsel Ruchi Verma.

"He needs to do the right thing. He needs to fire her—period," Tarver said. "There's no discussion."

CBS 2 asked the Mayor's office for a comment and did not hear back.

CPS provided the following responses:

First statement:

The safety and well being of our staff and students is a top priority and a foundational condition for our school communities. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) proactively works to prevent sexual abuse and agrees that any students who are harmed as a result of a legally-recognized failure on the District's part should be compensated in a reasonable manner that will help remedy injuries to the student. The District and our General Counsel recognize the traumatic impact of sexual abuse; our system continually works to educate leaders, faculty and students about sexual abuse and how to report it. 

In litigation, the District works to resolve disagreements around the compensation of victims and, in those cases, the District must balance its responsibility to reasonably compensate a victim with the District's responsibility to reach a resolution that is not just legally justified but also financially responsible. The Board of Education stands behind our General Counsel and our efforts to balance those two interests in order to reach mutually-acceptable resolutions, as we did last week via a settlement which will be subject to Board approval next month in a case involving a former student and employee. The District believes that the reported statements by its expert were taken out of context and do not fairly represent the position taken by the District, or its expert.  The District continues to inform staff and students of their rights and responsibilities to report any type of staff mis-conduct or abuse and we will continue to share that information and ensure that everyone understands their concerns will be heard and addressed according to our District policies and in collaboration with City and State partners.

Second statement:

Chicago Public Schools and our General Counsel work on a daily basis to uphold and protect the safety, well being, and privacy of all students. The District and our General Counsel strongly refute any claims regarding the intention or motivation of our legal strategies during the litigation of this case, which has now settled. 

Upon appearing for the initial status with the newly assigned trial judge, the trial attorneys conferred with the judge about a host of issues, including whether it was appropriate for a now adult plaintiff to appear as a "Jane Doe." Shortly thereafter, both parties filed motions on the use of the Doe designation. Upon ruling on the motion, the trial judge recognized this issue was appropriate to raise. This is a legal procedural issue that could have been addressed earlier in litigation and was not, but was addressed to establish the record before the trial began.

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