Chicago Public Schools failed to protect students who were groomed, sexually assaulted by gym teacher: federal lawsuit

CHICAGO — The parents of three teenage boys have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Board of Education failed to intervene as a gym teacher groomed students who were sexually abused and assaulted.

More details about the lawsuit will be revealed this morning at a press conference hosted by Disparti Law Group, which represents the boys. The complaint claims CPS has a “de facto policy, practice and custom of disregarding warning signs of ongoing sexual abuse or employees who were engaged in grooming students, failing to investigate reports of sexual misconduct, ineffective background checks of employees,” and more.

The allegations involve Andrew Castro, 37, a gym teacher at Federico Garcia Lorca Elementary School in Avondale, where the boys were students. Castro has been jailed without bail since prosecutors charged him in June with sexually assaulting two of the children and exposing himself to the third.

Castro worked his way into the boys’ lives and started attending their outside sporting events, according to prosecutors and the lawsuit. He told two of the boys, who are brothers, to call him “godfather” and told the single mother of the third boy that he would like to adopt her son, the lawsuit claims.

The boys, who were between 8 and 11 years old at the time, began visiting Castro’s home to play video games, watch movies, and spend the night, according to prosecutors and the lawsuit. From 2018 to 2019, Castro allegedly engaged the boys in a “dice game” that required whoever rolled the lowest number to expose their private parts or engage in touching.

During that time, Castro sexually assaulted one of the boys and gave him $20, according to the lawsuit. The sexual behavior escalated, and in June 2020, Castro sexually assaulted one of the boys, who was 11 years old. He went on to assault the boy “numerous times” over the next two years, prosecutors alleged.

While Castro was engaged in the inappropriate relationships, another teacher at their school crossed paths with him and the boys at Harlem Irving Plaza, the lawsuit claims. Another school employee allegedly ran into the group at a movie theater. The lawsuit claims neither employee reported what they saw.

Andrew Castro | Chicago Police Department

In May 2021, the school emailed parents to report that a staff member who “engaged inappropriately with a student” had been removed pending an investigation. The boys denied that Castro had done anything wrong when their parents asked, the lawsuit states.

During Castro’s bail hearing in June, a prosecutor said CPS suspended Castro to investigate allegations by three additional students. Those cases, which involve reported kissing or touching a student’s buttocks during gym class, do not meet the criteria for felony charges, the prosecutor stated.

Castro subsequently confirmed to one of the boys that he had been removed from the school and would not return until the boy who accused him of inappropriate touching graduated, according to the lawsuit.

The boys’ parents allowed their sleepovers to continue because the school did not notify them that Castro had been suspended for inappropriate sexual behavior, the lawsuit claims.

In late autumn 2021, Castro raped one of the boys, who was 12 years old, after asking for a back massage, according to the lawsuit’s allegations. It said he raped the boy a second time after taking the boys on a shopping trip to Five Below and on a third occasion at Castro’s apartment.

An attorney from the CPS inspector general’s office contacted the parents of the two brothers in April 2022 to let them know they may have been involved with or witnessed inappropriate behavior by a staff member.

The attorney spoke with the boy during school hours with his parents’ permission. At Castro’s request, he lied about what had happened in order to protect Castro’s teaching license, the lawsuit claims.

Finally, around Mother’s Day this year, the boy who had been repeatedly sexually assaulted revealed the extent of Castro’s behavior to a female relative after he was found harming himself, according to the lawsuit.

His parents went to the police. CPD detectives told them that Castro had four previous complaints about sexual abuse that the police department was required to tell the school district about, the suit claims.

Castro was soon arrested and charged.

About Tim Hecke 215 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com