The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) launched their Oversight.gov website last year, allowing the public to see the reports and recommendations of 73 Inspectors General offices. According to Michael Horowitz, Justice Department IG and CIGIE chairman, the Inspector Generals are there to ensure that “…taxpayer money is being wisely used, appropriately used, not wasted, and that government programs are being run effectively and efficiently.” The website includes a chart depicting the potential cost savings identified in the reports of the IG over the current fiscal year, usually reaching $20 million. The website allows for further transparency and accountability on behalf of the government.
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.
Last week the U.S. Senate passed the long-awaited Juvenile Justice Reform Act to improve the Juvenile Justice System and provide better support for children at risk of participating in crime. Such improvements will focus on education and rehabilitation, funding initiatives to support at-risk children in their communities, removing young offenders from adult prisons, and ceasing to imprison youth for minor offenses. There is hope that these reforms will prevent survivors of sexual abuse from being re-traumatized in prison environments, which could have significant impact on the lives of youth given that the majority of incarcerated young women are survivors of sexual abuse. Representative Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House on Education and the Workforce, has called the passage of this Act “a major victory for America’s youth…with these reforms, we can meet young people where they are, making enormous progress in prevention and equipping more people to better serve juvenile offenders better and meet the needs of communities. This bill will improve program accountability while promoting evidence-based solutions to give more young adults the tools and skills they need to achieve lifelong success.” Like other Federal laws that authorize grants programs, this legislation contains stringent requirements for grants monitoring.
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