Ben Crump

Attorney Ben Crump Launches Investigation Into Chicago Principal Firings

Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump has launched an investigation into the treatment of Chicago Public School’s Black principals, several of whom have been forcefully removed from their positions in recent months, according to ABC7 Chicago News. Crump accuses the CPS of discrimination and corruption following the expulsion of six Black principals in the past year. His investigation is assisted by activist Father Michael Pfleger and Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association

According to Block Club Chicago, in late March, Abdul Muhammad was released from his role as the interim principal at the Lindblom Math and Science Academy following an investigation by the CPS. Though the CPS sent a letter to families informing them of Muhammad’s immediate dismissal and the investigation, the reason for his termination was noticeably absent. The letter read, “Please know that we are taking this situation extremely seriously, and we remain committed to providing Lindblom students with a positive learning environment where they can reach their full potential. While the Network 16 team is unable to discuss details regarding the case, we are available to discuss the steps CPS takes to support students and matters related to your child.” 

The CPS responded similarly in April when Antonio Ross of Hyde Park Academy was terminated. According to the Hyde Park Herald, it refused to provide additional information despite “substantiated findings” against the former principal. At the time of Muhammad’s firing, the CPS assured that the decision was not due to reports that Lindblom teachers were transporting students to vote at a nearby polling location. Still, students and parents alike have been left in the dark following these oustings, prompting protests in the district. 

Muhammad became principal of the Englewood High School at the beginning of the 2022–2023 school year, replacing Wayne Bevis, who had previously filled the role from 2015 to 2021. Upon his arrival, Muhammad fired assistant principal Karen Fitzpatrick Carpenter, who students affectionately called “Mama Eagle.” Fitzpatrick Carpenter had been the assistant principal for 24 years, and her sudden dismissal resulted in a student-led walkout on the first day of classes. According to Block Club Chicago, though a CPS spokesperson revealed that they had no issue with Muhammad’s faculty change, after the protests, the Chicago Board postponed its decision to extend a four-year contract with Muhammad and, in December, it was ultimately decided that he would be interim principal for the remainder of the school year.

According to the Chicago Crusader, Father Pfleger recently spoke at a town hall meeting and shared that despite Muhammad’s initial reception, he was loved by the students but was fired because he brought order to the school. Pfleger also revealed that the student population is 75% African American, while 90% of teachers are white.  

LaRaviere spoke up about the increased firings at the meeting.

“Most of them don’t know why they were removed. That’s the strange thing about CPS,” he said.

“They use the excuse that there is an ongoing investigation. That way, they don’t have to tell you what these charges are. We used our lawyers to force them to give the charges.”

Following this request, LaRaviere uncovered 82 charges filed against Muhammad, which he labeled “petty” and “trifling.” Some of the charges LaRaviere mentioned were as minuscule as people not being invited to meetings.

“The CPS Law Department did very little to check the validity of the accusations that were given to them, the seven white teachers and the one Black clerk,” he said. 

LaRaviere also claims that, before Muhammad’s arrival, ​​the faculty at the school emailed members of the Local Advisory Committee’s Principal Selection Committee, asking them not to hire him. Crump is also requesting that CPS CEO Pedro Martínez step down or be removed from his position, claiming that Martinez helped coordinate the targeted abuse of Black principals. These findings have initiated an investigation to unveil racial bias.

Chicago Public Schools released a statement to the Chicago Crusader. Below is an abbreviated excerpt.

“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) strives to make sure all our schools have strong leaders dedicated to the success of their staff, students, and communities. The District has procedures in place to investigate allegations of staff misconduct, give proper due process to its employees, and make fair employment decisions. We are confident in the decisions made by the leaders of our District.

“As always, every allegation made about a staff member is referred to the appropriate investigative body for review, including the Office of Inspector General, the District’s Law Department, the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office, or the Office of Student Protections. CPS, just like other employers, does not share the details of personnel matters or ongoing investigations, as we are committed to protecting the privacy and rights of our employees and allowing an investigation to proceed without disruption. Such investigations take time and preclude us from providing ongoing and detailed updates.”

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