Rape by charter school coach is only part of the problem... EPIC took over a decent public school building for a dollar a year, 'experiments' on its students, and has allegedly been 'dumping' many of them back into Bowen

On January 24, 2013, Chicago's corporate media began reporting that a charter school coach on the city's far South Side had been arrested for rape. On January 25, the story developed with the report from the courtroom on the charging of the coach (which included a dramatic outburst from the mother of the alleged victim). By the time of the court hearing, the story was about an "ex-coach." When South Chicago Elementary School closed as a real public school in June 2009, it meant that young children would no longer have a neighborhood school to walk to. The closing of the school (allegedly because of "underutilization") was a hardship on many families. The entire community protested, but was ignored as the Board of Education first closed South Chicago under the "underutilization" pretext and then "flipped" the building to Epic charter school. Before the attack on the community's real public school by the Board, Russell Square Park across the street provided many after school services. In the early spring of 2009, the school held a two-block parade (above) in support of continuing the real public school. Students were happy, but the staff and parents were worried about the future and turned out in massive numbers to protest the closing, both in community hearings and at Board of Education headquarters. Above, part of the two-block protest march in front of the school in February 2009. Substance photo by David Vance.
The story of the Epic charter school that's being told today, however, is only a part of the story. And for Chicago's charters, it may be the tip of a very corrupt iceberg. [Updated corporate media stories on the rape charges follow this article].

Students at Epic Charter High School have been telling me and others that they feel the school doesn't know how to run properly. "They're experimenting," the students say (while remaining anonymous for now). When asked what they mean by "experimenting," the students say that almost all of the teachers are new and inexperienced.

At nearby Bowen High School, I am told, again by off-the-record sources, that in the middle of the year last school year, students from Epic would show up. They had been kicked out of Epic.

As Substance readers know, this charter school policy has been going on elsewhere in Chicago as well for some time. The charters qualify for their funding based on the number of students they have in October. Then in January, many of them "dump" their least successful students -- those who are most likely to score "low" on standardized tests -- back into the city's real public schools. The charter school test scores go "up," and the problems are foisted on the local real public high schools.

The evening news on January 24, 2013, (Channel 9) reported that the basketball coach at Epic High School was arrested and charged with rape of a female student. There were bright camera lights on the big building, located on 83rd and Houston.

But community leaders, union leaders, and others know there is a much broader story here. The Epic charter school was created on what the community still feels to be the grave of what had been South Chicago Elementary School.

One sign in four years ago read: "Daley! Keep your greedy hands off my community! Hands off South Chicago Elementary..." (CORE). The protests against the school closings in February 2009 included a massive picket at the Chicago Board of Education on February 24 and February 25, 2009, including pickets (see sign above) who were opposing the closing of South Chicago Elementary School. Many of the protesters were organized by CORE, which testified against the closings at all of the hearings both in the community and at 125 S. Clark St. Despite the massive outpouring of opposition to the closings, the Board of Education voted to close the majority of schools on what was called the "Hit List" which was part of Mayor Richard M. Daley's "Renaissance 2010" program to privatize the public schools and expand charter schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.What the current corporate news stories in January 2013 didn't tell the viewers is that in June of 2009, 280 young students were kicked out of their elementary neighborhood school building, one that had just been rehabilitated at a cost of millions of dollars.

The "South Chicago Elementary School," a real public school, made an impassioned plea both during the hearings on the proposed closing of its building and at the Board of Education meeting that voted to close it. A few months later, the same Board voted to lease the building, with its new windows and fresh rehab, to the charter school at the rate of $1 per year! So the story of South Chicago Elementary School continues, and memories are still fresh. The newly remodeled building was immediately flipped into a charter school. Epic began operations in what had been South Chicago Elementary School in September, 2009.

WGN NEWS STORY BELOW HERE: Ex-coach charged (WGN TV, January 25, 2013)

The coach accused of sexually assaulting a teen student appeared in court Friday morning.

One of the victim's mothers was screaming and had to be escorted out of the courthouse by Cook County Sheriff’s Deputies following the hearing.

33-year-old Kevin Jones was charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault and one count of attempted criminal sexual assault. He was a basketball coach at Epic Academy Charter School on the South Side.

Prosecutors said that Jones drove a 17-year-old girl and her friend home after a basketball game last Thursday. He parked his car in an alley in the 8500 block of South Green Bay Avenue and got into the back seat with the girls. Prosecutors said he tried to force one of the girls to perform a sex act on him, but she resisted and got out of the car. Prosecutors also said the girl then witnessed Jones and her friend engage in a sex act.

Assistant State's Attorney Joell Zahr said "The offender then drove victim number one home and victim number two told a teacher at the school the following day, victim number one told her mother a few days later."


One of the girl's attorneys spoke to reporters after the hearing Friday.

Brad Cosgrove said. "My client is upset by the conduct of her coach, betrayal of coach."


But Jones's attorney, Jeffrey Granich, said his client is innocent of these charges. He says Jones is married with two young children, serves as a deacon at his church and has no criminal history.

"At this point we're all shocked about these charges, he's lead an exemplary life, he's a good, we're looking forward to the trial and clearing his name," Granich said.

Parents said they are disturbed by the charges against the coach, but they have good things to say about the school and its principal. "I'm shocked that it happened at this school, because the principal takes care of his students, so I'm shocked."

[WGN note: Read more at ]


Basketball coach held on $500,000 bail in sexual assault, BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter January 25, 2013 2:00PM

The former boys’ basketball coach at a Chicago Public School charter school was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 bail Friday for allegedly forcing a 17-year-old student to perform a sex act in the back of his car.

Kevin Jones, who was a part-time coach at Epic Academy, 8255 S. Houston, also allegedly pushed another 17-year-old girl’s head and shoulders onto his lap after he unzipped his pants on the night of Jan. 17, assistant Cook County state’s attorney Joell Zahr said.

Jones, 33, had been taking the girls home after a basketball game before driving into the alley in the 8500 block of South Green Bay and attacking the teenagers, authorities said.

Jones, a married father of two, allegedly went into the back seat with the girls and first tried to assault one of them, who successfully resisted.

According to a police report, Jones put his arm around the other girl and told the first girl to get out of the vehicle.

That girl got out but then realized she didn't know where she was, so she came back to the card and saw the other two engaged in a sex act, the report said.

Jones eventually took the second girl home, Zahr said.

The first girl told a teacher about the alleged incident at Epic the next day. The second girl told her mother a few days later, Zahr said.

Jones was not a teacher at the school, according to a prepared statement from Epic Academy. As of Jan. 18, he was no longer working at the school.

Jones, of the 8300 block of South Kerfoot, is facing sexual assault and attempted criminal sexual assault charges.

Judge Edward Harmenling forbade Jones to have any contact with children under the age of 18 other than his children, which means he can no longer work at LEARN charter school, 1700 W. 83rd St., where he teaches physical education.

Although the alleged incident did not occur at LEARN or with any of its students, Jones was terminated from the school, said a statement from LEARN officials Friday.

During Friday's bond hearing, the mother of one of the victims was escorted out of the court by her family members when she cried out, "That's my child."

The women's relatives followed her outside, where she crumpled to the floor. Jones, a Robeson High School and Chicago State University graduate, is currently working on a master's degree at Concordia University, his attorney Jeffrey Granich said.

"We're shocked by the allegations. He's led an examplary life. He's a very good guy," Granich said.


Victim's mom removed from hearing for coach charged with sexual assault

Charter school suspends boys basketball trainer, January 25, 2013|By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune reporter

The mother of an underage girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by the basketball coach at her South Side high school began wailing at his bond hearing and had to be dragged out of the courthouse by supporters.

“That’s my (expletive) child!” the woman screamed over and over as prosecutors detailed allegations against the coach, Kevin Jones.

After deputies escorted the woman out of the courtroom, she fell to the floor wailing and later had to be physically pulled from the courthouse. Court personnel later identified her as the mother of one of two underage victims, both 17.

Jones, 33, a varsity boys basketball coach at Epic Academy Charter High School in the 8200 block of South Houston Avenue, was charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault and one count of attempted criminal sexual assault.

Prosecutors said Jones was driving the 17-year-old girl and her friend home from an away basketball game on Jan. 17 when he parked the car in an alley in the 8500 block of South Green Bay Avenue.

Jones got into the back seat of the car with the victims and unzipped his pants, Assistant State’s Atty. Joell Zahr said. He tried to force the girl into a sex act, but she resisted and was able to get out of the car.

As she stood outside the car trying to call for a ride home, the girl saw Jones engaged in a sex act with the other girl, Zahr said.

After Jones drove the one girl home, she told her mother about the incident a few days later, the prosecutor said. The girl who had escaped the car also reported the incident to a teacher at school and a friend, according to Zahr.

Jones’ attorney, Jeff Granich, said that in addition to coaching basketball at Epic, Jones was employed as a gym teacher at LEARN charter school in the 1700 block of West 83rd Street. He is married with two young children, serves as a deacon at his church and has no prior convictions, Granich said.

“At this point, we are shocked about these allegations, and we look forward to going to trial and clearing his name,” Granich said after court.

Judge Edward Harmening set bond at $500,000 and ordered Jones to have no contact with any children except his own if he is released from custody. Jones’ employment at Epic ended on Jan. 17, said Cindy Hansen, an attorney representing the school. She could not say whether he was fired or left on his own.


January 26, 2013 at 6:24 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Rape victims' families need to 'lawyer up' quickly

From additional news reports on the Epic Charter High School rape it was reported that the charter school’s spokesperson on this matter was Cindy Hansen. Ms. Hansen is currently an attorney for the firm of Tressler LLP; prior to that she was Director of Dispute Resolution for CPS. Which meant she provided legal advice on policy development within CPS as it related to educating students with disabilities. She was also the supervising attorney for all CPS lawyers involved in special education claims brought by parents.

Almost all of us involved in special education issues here in Chicago at one time or another had dealing with Ms. Hansen. My advise to the family of the girl who was raped is lawyer up immediately and do not discuss anything -- in particular a settlement -- with either the school or Ms. Hansen without having legal representation.

Rod Estvan

January 28, 2013 at 2:56 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Who's legally responsible?

First of all, I say a prayer for the victims of this crime, if it is proven such a crime did occur.

My question is this (and I hope those in the media ask the question) Is the charter school responsible for the legal bills this is sure to result? If not, why not? Clearly, the charter school coach involved was working for a charter school at the time of the alleged incident. When lawsuits are filed, who will wind up picking up the tab?

January 28, 2013 at 3:46 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Legality of charter school rapes, murders, and strip searches... and who pays

Jay Rehak's question is a very serious one. Assuming that rapes and negligent homicides in Chicago's charter schools are defended by lawyers (as well as spun by propaganda departments), as they have been, the question becomes a vocabulary one of sorts.

"Charter schools -- Accountability"? A joke. CPS officials prattle about it, but every scandal proves the joke is on us, again, as CPS continues its expansion of charter schools at the expense of the city's real public schools.

As we reported at five years ago, the Aspira Haugan charter school was sued by two students who had been subjected to an illegal strip search. The case disappeared.

Around the same time, three students from North Lawndale College Prep, which has been a "failing school" for a decade now by the CPS matrices, drowned during a late night boating accident at the YMCA camp north of Chicago. Again, the news was blacked out.

The latest charges of rape and sexual misconduct against a charter school teacher are not the first. Charter schools' deregulation (and demand that teachers simplify reality by hiring people who "love children" and swear that they believe -- as if we don't -- that "all children can learn") and the fact that charters can hire people who are not even certified teachers opens them up, even more so, to predators. After all, schools give adults access to and power over children. This is a predator's dream, and the charters, unregulated and unaccountable, are more prey to this than the rest of us who serve children.

The Epic and LEARN scandal of January 2013 is not the first. I remember the coverup at Perspectives Calumet, which we reported years ago. And then there was a similar scandal (and cover up) at Chicago International Charter Schools -- the "campus" on 55th St. I believe.

This is quite a record for a few short years, and yet reading the Sun-Times this week and listening to Barbara Byrd Bennett, you would think the worst conduct in eduction in January 2013 was the trash talk between the coaches of Simeon and Morgan Park during that basketball game after which a student was murdered in the Chicago State parking lot (related to the game? Who knows?)...

Chicago's charter schools lead a charmed life as far as scandals go.

Trivia that is blown up as proof that the city's real public schools are failing dominates the education reporting in the corporate press. Yet rapes and negligent homicide go unpunished at the root. The same top administrators who ran those four charters when the children were abused -- or died -- back then are still in power.

And it is quite likely that the public paid the lawyers who handled the cases.

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