Victims in Chicago school sex cases tell lawmakers of trauma

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

Morgan Aranda has an emotional moment when telling state lawmakers about an alleged sexual assault by a teacher when she was a student at Walter Payton College Prep on Chicago’s North Side. “I was deeply failed by the schools and teachers I trusted and admired,” Aranda said. (

Morgan Aranda simply knew that the selective-enrollment Walter Payton College Prep on Chicago’s North Side was the right school for her.

She entered the highly-touted school as a freshman excited and motivated for what was ahead. However, a few months into her freshman year, Aranda was failing tests and failing classes.

“School had lost its sense of wonder and excitement and so had I,” Aranda said.

That is because at the age of 14, Aranda said, she was sexually assaulted twice by her world studies teacher.

An administrative hearing officer ruled that the teacher acted inappropriately, but did not find that the kiss or touch he gave Aranda were sexual in nature. The hearing officer recommended a 30-day suspension for the teacher, but Chicago Public Schools officials instead chose to fire him, but he kept his pension.

Aranda, now 22 and a student at Ohio State University, said the continued grilling from CPS and Chicago Teachers Union lawyers was stress-inducing.

“I felt as if I was the one under investigation,” Aranda told state lawmakers looking into sexual assaults in the Chicago Public Schools. “… It was clear that CPS did not believe me.”

During a June 20 joint hearing of the state Senate Education and the House Elementary and Secondary Education committees, Aranda and Tamara Reed, another assault victim, told lawmakers of their feelings that the system failed them.

“I was deeply failed by the school and teachers I trusted and admired,” Aranda said.

Aranda said she was questioned as if she had done something wrong.

“I was pulled from class to sit alone in a room with an old man who asked not how I felt or what they could do to make me feel safe in my school again, but what I was wearing when I had been assaulted,” Aranda said. “I was embarrassed to tears to tell him I was wearing a skirt and tights. I felt guilty.”

“Do you know what it’s like to be made to feel like a criminal, when you are, in fact, the victim?” she asked.

Reed, who was also 14 and an eighth-grader at Robert A. Black Magnet Elementary School, at the time of her incident, received sexual texts from a substitute teacher twice her age in 2015.

The teacher, Aaron Williams-Banks, was convicted of grooming and indecent solicitation of a child. William-Banks is serving four months in Cook County Jail and will serve 30 months’ sex offender probation once released.

Tamara Reed wipes her eyes while telling lawmakers about receiving sexual texts from a substitute teacher twice her age at Robert A. Black Magnet Elementary School in Chicago. Reed was an eighth-grader at the time. (

“Events of that year were devastating, profound and far-reaching,” Reed told lawmakers. “They continue to be impacting on every part of my life and every part of my self. I continue to be held back and limited because of what happened.”

Reed said she went into a deep depression, suffering from post-traumatic stress, after the encounter with the sub. She said she lost her social life and even now isolates herself from others, putting up a wall of protection.

“This event robbed me of my confidence and self-esteem, dignity and self-respect,” she said. “My faith in the world and faith in myself is decimated. I am on a completely different course than I would be on if I had not been preyed on the way I was.”

Reed said Black Magnet staff even made her feel like the incident was her fault after the substitute had texted himself a message from Reed’s cell phone, leaving a record of his cell number on her phone.

“My teacher said ‘If you wanted to talk to someone 14 years older, you could have done so much better,’” Reed remembered.

Both victims told lawmakers that they received no counseling following the incidents and have not received an apology from anyone with CPS or the city.

Lawmakers were livid with those facts.

“Every single adult that worked for CPS (on these cases), every last one of them, failed you,” state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) told the two victims. “The mayor of the city of Chicago failed you. The CEO of CPS failed you. The board of CPS failed you as did anyone else who came in contact that you told. This system is broken and everyone in it needs to be fired.”

State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood), chairwoman of the Senate’s Education Committee, called for urgent action to institute proper protocols to ensure such incidents never happen again.

State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) promised that lawmakers will take steps to protects students in Chicago and throughout the state from sexual predators. (

“It is unacceptable that sexual predators were not only near our children, but in positions of trust,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “Everyone should be angry that these abusers were able to prey on students because of insufficient oversight.”

Bertino-Tarrant had invited advocates and stakeholders to the hearing to discuss how to close loopholes and instate stronger policies. First on the list was properly sharing information with other school districts and completing more thorough background checks on prospective employees.

The joint committee also heard from CPS officials who said they are going to advocate for additional laws at the state level to prevent similar cases from happening again.

“New laws are not going to solve the breakdown in command,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “Who is responsible? We keep talking about what will happen in the future but there is an obvious failure that needs to be addressed.”

State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) called the two victims “heroes” for coming forward and telling their stories.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) said she is not sure more rules will make students safer from predators. “We already have laws on the books that were not enacted or implemented,” Collins said of the CPS sex scandal. (

“You were wronged and you are helping to bring about positive change now,” McSweeney said. “We owe you an apology, an apology on behalf of the state of Illinois, (on behalf of) CPS. You have absolutely done so much … You are changing lives. You are going to make sure this never happens again.”

McSweeney said there will be steps taken by lawmakers to protect students in Chicago and throughout the state from being victims of sexual predators.

“We will do many things, I promise, investigations, protections,” McSweeney said,. “This will be taken care of, I promise.”

Reed said establishing consequences for school personnel not going to the police when such allegations are presented would be a step in the right direction. She said in her case a teacher said she was going to do her own investigation and that it took her dad calling Chicago police himself to get law enforcement involved in the case.

Morgan Aranda recommended schools cutting all ties with sexual predators as a necessary step.

“Stop hiring sexual predators and you need to fire sex predators,” Aranda said to school leaders. “Do not pay sexual predators a pension. To allow people who prey on children to work in a system that is specifically designed to educate children is ridiculous.”

Aranda said that police were never contacted in her case, that CPS handled the investigation internally.

“That’s inconceivable. That’s absolutely horrible,” state Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) said. “We must do better so that other young people do not have this happen to them.”

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) said she is not confident that putting new rules and regulations in place is the answer for keeping students safer.

“We already have laws on the books that were not enacted or implemented,” Collins said. “What’s to say once the media spotlight is off the issue we wouldn’t be confronted with the same problem?”



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