Long-buried report concluded Chicago school principal ignored warnings in horrific sexual abuse case
The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a case that Maribeth Vander Weele initiated in 2001 when she served as Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools. The case, disclosed in court records, is relevant today as CPS implements reforms to protect children from sexual violence. Since 2008, police have investigated 523 cases of sexual abuse or assault of students in Chicago Public Schools, the Tribune reported.
By law, school personnel must report even a suspicion of child abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
In 2001, Vander Weele received a complaint that a principal ignored warnings of a sexual predator at Johnson Elementary School, and immediately launched an investigation. Her team learned that in 1986, Marvin Lovett began volunteering at the school and was later hired to run a program for boys. While a trusted mentor for children, he enticed boys to his apartment and secretly made pornographic videotapes using a hidden camera. Vander Weele's team found that Principal Mattie Tyson ignored at least four warnings about Lovett and continued to permit Lovett to volunteer and work at the school. When speaking to investigators, Tyson denied knowing about the abuse or the warnings.
In 2000, a former student and abuse victim shot Lovett to death. After his death, Lovett was accused of sexually abusing 19 boys in the North Lawndale community. The investigation by
Vander Weele's team concluded that "Tyson knew or should have known that Lovett was either an active pedophile or posed a risk to the students at Johnson School" and that she "had reasonable cause to believe that children known to her in her professional or official capacity may have been abused." Her failure to inform child welfare officials was a violation of both CPS policy and state law, Vander Weele’s team concluded.
The Tribune reported that after Vander Weele left the school system in 2002, the findings of her report were overturned with a one-line explanation. In 2018, the report was brought to light in a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools for failing to protect students from the abuse they endured at the hands of Lovett. This is the largest known case of sexual abuse involving a CPS worker, volunteer, or vendor in recent decades, and has led to $2.7 million in legal settlements.
Tyson was not disciplined and retired in 2004.
In 2003, Maribeth Vander Weele founded the Vander Weele Group, a firm that provides oversight to large-scale programs that serve children and at-risk populations.
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