CPS Investigating Teacher for Stealing Garbage
By Jim Vail
|Schurz High School gym teacher Jorge Perez|
Jorge Perez is a gym teacher at Schurz High School on the Northwest side who wanted to make art out of garbage.
Today he is being investigated by the Chicago Public Schools for removing what the school determined was junk.
He told Chicago News that he noticed there were old chalkboards that were about to be thrown out early last school year, so he informed some teachers and administrators at the beginning of last year that he would like to take those old boards to his house.
He arrived with his pickup last April on a Saturday morning to haul the boards away, he said. He thought he was doing a good deed.
“They were an eyesore in the classroom,” he said. “They still needed to be thrown away, as well as old printers and monitors.”
Perez said his problem was not informing the school about the exact date that he would pick up the old chalkboards.
When he entered the school he set off an alarm unexpectedly, and was then questioned by two police officers about what he was removing from the school. The alarm not only alerted the police, but the network office that oversees Schurz High School.
That’s when Perez’s simple quest to create beauty out of junk became a nightmare.
After Perez told the officers that he was a teacher and was just removing an old discarded chalkboard, he got a phone call from his assistant principal Debra Neiman who questioned him about the incident and whether or not he had permission. Neiman told him to return the “CPS property,” which Perez said he promptly did.
He was then subjected to a bizarre interrogation in which he watched a video tape of his alleged offense with the administration, who periodically freeze framed a shot and said it looked like he was removing whiteboards, which he made clear and the evidence showed he did not, Perez said.
“I didn’t know what she was getting at,” Perez said. “She showed the boards in the sun and said those are whiteboards and we go back and forth like children. Blackboards. Whiteboards. I said you’re calling me a liar. Then I went back to class.”
Perez added that the video clearly showed that he took chalkboards and not whiteboards that he was accused of.
At the end of the week, Perez was confronted by five or six officers who handcuffed him in school and told him he was being arrested for theft and trespassing.
The gym teacher at the school on Milwaukee, who also coaches track, was issued an I-bond after spending eight hours in the police station, he said.
The theft and trespassing charges were dismissed by the city. However, the five-year teacher is still sitting in a network office, collecting his regular salary while CPS continues to investigate.
Over the summer just before the new school year about 1,000 teachers and teacher aides were fired due to budget cuts and enrollment. There were twelve teachers at Schurz High School layed off. Perez was not one of them.
He continues to sit in a room since May 9th doing nothing all day with two other teachers who are also being investigated on “far more serious offenses,” one for alleged drunkenness, and another for child abuse while separating an altercation.
It’s been about 137 days sitting in what some have referred to as the rubber room in New York.
I wrote in 2014 in Secondcityteachers.blogspot.com, a blog I edit about Chicago public school teachers, about the former Lane Tech High School girls swim coach who was falsely accused of inappropriate relations with one of his swimmers. Even though the swim coach was found not guilty of having a sexual relationship with a female swimmer, CPS kept him in the network office while conducting its own internal investigation.
And it wasn’t until after the media reports and parents went to the Chicago Board of Education to demand that their coach and teacher return to the school, that CPS then decided to reinstate the Lane Tech teacher, although with an agreement that he no longer coach the swim team.
Perez’s case is well-known amongst the students at Schurz who commented and speculated about his removal on Facebook. The comments have been overwhelmingly in support of their gym teacher and coach. “Plus you were a favorite,” one wrote. “If it had been anybody else not many would have even payed attention but since everybody knew you …”
Rumors also circulated online that Perez was in jail. The students started a thread entitled #freePerez “Free my previous Teacher. One of the best Physical Teachers Ever.” Another wrote: “I honestly wish you the best. And I seriously wish you come back … I miss you so very much. And I’m not the only one who misses you.”
Some of the teachers who have been investigated speculate that CPS keeps teachers accused of a serious infraction but are short on proof to sit for a long time doing nothing in the hope that the accused teacher will resign.
Already, according to Perez, one of those teachers who was sitting with him in the investigation room - which could be compared to jail before being convicted or exonerated - has resigned.
Perez said he was questioned by a detective working for CPS who told him his case was silly and he shouldn’t worry.
Except, Perez is still sitting, and waiting for CPS to make up its mind, on what many would consider a silly charge.