The 21st Show

Addressing Trauma In Schools; Sexual Abuse At CPS; ‘Character Education’

Teachers receiving trauma training

Elizabeth Degruy, director of special education at Champaign Unit 4 School District, began training teachers across the district’s nearly 20 schools to think about their students differently early last year in an effort to mitigate trauma. Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Public Media

On the 21st: How are schools across Illinois are helping students traumatized by violence? But first, we speak to reporters from the Chicago Tribune about their investigation into sexual abuse and assault within Chicago Public Schools. Plus, how is one southwestern Illinois school teaching children life lessons about character? 

Lots of children have traumatic experiences. According to one CDC/Kaiser Permanente Study - the more traumatic experiences children suffer in early childhood - the more negative emotional and physical outcomes happen later in life - everything from depression to obesity to substance abuse.

Lee Gaines has been reporting on how Illinois schools are stepping in to help these children. She reported on this for the Illinois Newsroom - that’s a new statewide reporting project based at Illinois Public Media. She joined us in our Urbana studios.

We were also joined on the line by Karen Simms, founder of Meridian K Consulting. She works with families, teachers and kids to better cope with trauma. And, Kristine Argue spoke with us, she’s the instructional resource and professional development director with the Illinois Education Association and works with educators on this issue.


Over the last decade Chicago police have investigated more than 500 cases of involving alleged sexual assault--all at Chicago Public Schools. This includes everything from obscene texts sent by a teacher to a student -- to a young track star being raped, multiple times, by her coach.

These are crimes that are horrible on their own. But a recent Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that in many of these cases, the schools and CPS could’ve prevented them.

We were joined by two of the reporters from Tribune’s investigative team, David Jackson and Jennifer Smith Richards.


Last month, the national organization named 73 schools across the country as examples of character education done well. And Ellis Elementary School in Belleville was the only school from Illinois on that list.

Joining us to talk about instilling character was the principal of Ellis Elementary, Terri Kraemer. Also joiing us was Nicole Diehl, a school consultant with CharacterPlus based out of St. Louis. And Heather Cazad is the director of communications and community with character dot org. 

Story source: WILL