Lead list grows as more public schools are found facing 'Flint' issues ... Why is CTU leadership doing so little about toxicity and lead in Chicago's public schools?

As the Fourth of July weekend began on July 1, 2016, there were new reports of lead being found in Chicago public schools (see DNA Info story and listing below). But as the officially acknowledged problems grow to a longer and longer list, a major question is arising: Why hasn't the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union done anything about the problem, which is a more significant danger to the union's members, as history shows, because we are in the schools for years and even decades, while the children are eventually moving on?

When the Chicago Board of Education built "Carver Area High School" more than 50 years ago, the purpose was racial segregation. All of the city's public high schools to the north of the all-black Altgeld Gardens public housing project were still all-white (or mostly white), including nearby Fenger High School. So the Board devoted millions of dollars to the construction of a "new" high school just for the children of the "projects." But in addition to the evil of segregation, the Board added a major "environmental" issue -- Carver was built in a toxic waste disposal dump. Observers noted that when the foundation was dug, as reported in Substance, the soil was blue, indicating sulfuric acid and other heavy metals. After Carver was opened, the government separated Carver from the toxic dump by cutting the "Bishop Ford Expressway" between the high school and the mountains of waste (now to the east of the expressway, while Carver sits to the west). During the reign of Paul G. Vallas as "CEO of CPS," Carver was again shifted, this time by having its named changed to "Carver Military Academy" although almost none of the school's alumni or faculty or community wanted the change. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But are the little children the only public school students in Chicago in danger because of lead, heavy metals, and other "environment" problems in the city and in its public schools? To listen to the latest wording and talking points from CPS officials, the observer would think that the Flint issues in Chicago were only facing the smallest children, as if the city's high schools weren't as dangerous -- or more so.

A review of the CTU website and other documents shows that the leaders of the nation's third largest pre-K - 12 AFT local have been virtually silent on the leader (and other toxic metals) in the city's public schools. As of the Fourth of July weekend, the Chicago Board of Education hasn't even begun testing the city's huge (and in many cases, decades-old) high schools, since the CPS focus, when the Board was finally forced (by Substance reports) to face the problem has been on those schools serving younger children.

The history of toxic dangers to union staff goes way back, and has been reported here at Substance long before our reports began appearing on the Internet. Teachers at the "old" Simeon Vocational High School and at Carver Area High School (before it was dubbed "Carver Military Academy") sickened and in some cases died because of the environmental dangers in their buildings. And the union has long had the power, through the grievance procedure and other methods, to both challenge and publicly expose these dangers. It's even more serious a question because CTU president Karen Lewis taught chemistry before she became union president in 2010, and knows better than most the dangers heavy metals (most notably, but not exclusively, lead) can cause to human beings -- not just young children.


DOWNTOWN, SOUTH LOOP & RIVER NORTH EducationHealth & Wellness, Politics

Lead Found In Water At 8 New Schools, Count Up To 43 At CPS, By Ted Cox | July 1, 2016

THE LOOP — Chicago Public Schools added eight new schools to the list of those that have tested positive for lead in the water Friday, bringing the total to 43 since testing began.

The new schools added to the list Friday included Darwin, Deneen, Disney II, Funston, Goudy, Penn, Smyth and Solomon.

The previous count, released Tuesday, found 35 schools tested positive for lead in the water.

CPS said Friday that families at the schools had been notified.

Many of the positive tests released Friday came from sinks, not fountains, and the district has insisted that "generally, it seems that many of these fixtures with readings above action level may not be in frequent use."

Following the lead-poisoning disaster in Flint, Mich., CPS began looking into lead in the water of schools this spring, and first detected it at Tanner Elementary in May. CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said at the time that all schools would be tested out of "an abundance of caution." Some 134 schools have now been tested, starting with the more than 250 built before new lead-pipe regulations took effect in 1986.

The district said more information can be found, including test results, at its own website on lead testing.


July 4, 2016 at 12:42 PM

By: john whitfield

ILL. Dept of Labor complaint

Maybe it's time for a 'safety & security' person again at CTU, if we don't have one there. Surely a complaint with Illinois Department of Labor has been filed. They would require a posting at each school once verified. The school delegate can file such a complaint also.

July 5, 2016 at 6:58 AM

By: George Schmidt

CTU sellouts on 'Safety and Security'

Actually, the Chicago Teachers Union needs two staff people doing "safety and security". Safety means the environmental stuff, which requires specialization. Security means gangs and violence in the schools, which is a completely different specialization. I was the last "Director of School Security" for the union, and Marilyn Stewart fired me from that job (and ended that work) in August 2004. Now, thanks in part to cutbacks in security, the gangs have been escalating violence across the city, especially in targeted schools. But the union is preaching and practicing a fatal retreat from gang security ("Restorative Justice" is the latest iteration of that surrender to nonsense) while, as the last couple of months proved across most of the inner city, gangs ran wild and wilder -- often because of another CTU failure: the failure to demand and enforce the right of schools to have substitute teachers and right rights of the substitute teachers themselves...

July 5, 2016 at 4:20 PM

By: Bob Busch

Cell phone towers

the new administration decided to create a Freshman Wing.They chose the second floor.

That year the Freshmen were out of control.

Not just the usual fights and gang shit.Kids seemed out of their minds.It was so bad this experiment was soon abandoned.Nobody thought to ask "Why"

Nobody brought a EMF meter to check on the level of these brain altering electric magnetic waves.As soon as the Freshmen were not forced to sit in classrooms all day next to the cell phone repeaters that festooned the outside of their Freshman Wing,they became normal. Lead is not the only danger lurking in CPS schools

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 1 =