Message from the General Superintendent & CEO, Rosa Escareño:
Since I became Superintendent in October 2021, my primary goal has been to build a Chicago Park District rooted in safety, respect, accountability and transparency. Misconduct is not and never will be tolerated at the Park District. We are working diligently every day to ensure that this is the case, and to make the necessary changes that will rebuild trust with our employees and the community. As we take lessons learned from the past and move in this new direction, we are committed to an open dialogue and increased transparency- an important part of gaining trust and building a better and stronger Park District. This webpage serves as a hub of information about the steps we are taking to ensure the highest level of safety and accountability moving forward.
- What steps are being taken by the Park District to ensure safety and accountability for all employees and patrons?
Misconduct is not and will never be tolerated at the Chicago Park District. This begins with holding wrongdoers accountable- to that end, the Park District has followed the recommendations of the Office of Inspector General and taken appropriate disciplinary action in every instance where allegations of misconduct were sustained. Furthermore, we are enacting policy and organizational changes to ensure that all employees and patrons are protected and heard; and improving transparency and communication to enhance awareness inside our agency and with our patrons about the changes being implemented.
As a direct response to the results of the investigations into misconduct, the Park District has taken the following steps:
- 16 employees have been terminated, resigned while under investigation or were asked to resign. This includes supervisors and senior management staff that failed to report misconduct.
- Implemented a robust training program across the Park District, with an emphasis on workplace policies and proper reporting. This includes sexual harassment training for the entire District – over 3,000 employees – and a two-week intensive training specifically for the Aquatics Department.
- Initiated a review of our policies and procedures and our leadership structure to address systemic issues and bring more transparency and accountability to the Park District.
- Funded a new Office of Prevention and Accountability to ensure all allegations of misconduct are handled swiftly, comprehensively and fairly.
This new Office of Prevention and Accountability will serve as the dedicated resource for all employees and patrons to report certain misconduct – it is a critical part of the Park District’s plan to create an equitable, inclusive, safe and respectful work and recreation environment. The Office, the first-of-its-kind at the Park District, will be empowered to prevent misconduct and hold wrongdoers accountable through fair, independent and thorough investigations into allegations of misconduct by Park employees and patrons. These allegations can include but are not limited to, complaints of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, workplace violence, abuse and neglect of children or vulnerable adults and retaliation.
In January 2022, after robust engagement with experts in the field, we drafted and introduced legislation amending the code to formally establish this Office and give it authority to conduct investigations. We encourage everyone to view the proposed Code amendments as we work to better safeguard our parks’ most valuable assets – our patrons and employees.
- What changes are being implemented to support lifeguards, especially the youngest lifeguards, at Chicago’s beaches and pools in 2022?
The Chicago Park District’s Aquatics Department is considered the gold standard when it comes to water safety, and each year our lifeguards undergo intensive training to ensure that our beaches and pools are safe for all patrons. For many young lifeguards, this is the start of their path to a successful career. We are building on this commitment and working diligently to ensure that all lifeguards, especially the youngest ones, enjoy the highest level of safety and protection as part of their employment with the Chicago Park District. Prospective lifeguards can expect the following changes starting this summer:
- Stronger management oversight to ensure accountability at every beach and pool;
- Improved training for management staff to recognize, prevent and report misconduct;
- A new, comprehensive orientation program for all summer seasonal lifeguards focused on creating a positive, safe, supportive and professional workplace. The training will build on the intensive water safety training that lifeguards already receive and focus on workplace policies, character and leadership.
- A new additional training for summer lifeguards to recognize and prevent sexual misconduct, including proper conduct outside of work hours/locations and social media usage. This training will also ensure that all lifeguards know where to go to report and receive support if they are victims of misconduct;
- A new voluntary orientation opportunity for parents of children working in Aquatics programs;
- A fully established Office of Prevention and Accountability that will ensure all Chicago lifeguards, as well as all other employees and park patrons, have a dedicated office to report and investigate misconduct.
The public can be confident that all Chicago lifeguards this summer will be well-trained to prevent misconduct and report it to the new Office of Prevention and Accountability. We are setting a new direction for the Chicago Park District, one rooted in safety, accountability and transparency.
As we approach the summer beaches and outdoor pools season, we are also looking closely at all of our policies and procedures to address systemic issues and bring more accountability to the Park District. To this end, we are:
- Training all current and incoming seasonal summer lifeguards in ways to prevent misconduct and know how-to report and where to go for information and help if they are victims of misconduct; Please note: the Park District will be enhancing our training and educational materials through the new Office of Prevention and Accountability to ensure that all employees know how-to report misconduct and receive support if they are victims of misconduct.
- Holding a series of roundtables and listening sessions to hear from current and past employees, parents and members of the community to engage in a robust dialogue and ensure the highest level of accountability and safety;
- Engaging with experts in the prevention of sexual misconduct and Aquatics management to ensure we have systems in place to prevent future misconduct.
We look forward to sharing more details as we continue this important work. Please check back for updates.
Anyone interested in applying to be a summer lifeguard can find information here: Apply to be a lifeguard.
- Where can I learn more about the investigations into misconduct at the Chicago Park District?
The latest information regarding the investigation into misconduct in the Aquatics Department can be found on the Chicago Park District’s Office of the Inspector General’s website, including the 2021 Annual Report. Additionally, the Arnold & Porter Law Firm conducted an investigation into Park District management actions in response to these allegations – that report can be found on the Board of Commissioner’s webpage.
- Where can Park District employees and members of the public report misconduct?
Park District employees who experience or witness discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, workplace violence, abuse and neglect of children or vulnerable adults, and retaliation can report this misconduct to the Department of Human Resources at (312) 742-4496 or HR@ChicagoParkDistrict.com. Once the new Office of Prevention and Accountability is fully established, new information about where to report can be found here.
Other complaints related to waste, misuse, and fraud should be reported to the Office of Inspector General at (312) 742-3333 or via their online complaint form.
Members of the public can submit all allegations of misconduct directly to the Office of Inspector General at (312) 742-3333 or via their online complaint form.
- Where can victims of sexual violence receive confidential support?
All victims or survivors of sexual violence can access immediate support and crisis intervention through the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline by calling 888-293-2080 in the Chicago Region. The Rape Crisis Hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Additionally, text and chat services are available Monday-Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm central. To use the English chat or Spanish chat, users must be 13 years or older. If under 13 years old, users will be directed to call or text the Rape Crisis Hotline at (888) 293-2080. No cost to user, only standard messaging rates apply.
Furthermore, the Park District will be enhancing our training and educational materials through the new Office of Prevention and Accountability to ensure that all employees know how-to report misconduct and receive support if they are victims of misconduct. Individuals that report misconduct will receive information directly on how to receive confidential support.
- How can members of the public make their voices heard?
Members of the public may submit comments, compliments or complaints via the webform located on the bottom of this page.
Additionally, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners can be reached via phone at (312) 742-5034 or email at email@example.com (if your message is directed to a specific member of the Board, please indicate that in your email). Members of the public will have the opportunity to address the Board during the “People in the Parks” section of all public meetings. All submissions must be received by 4:00 PM the Monday prior to the meeting. For details on Board Meetings, visit the Board Website. For more information about speaking at Board Meetings, visit Speaking at Board of Commissioner Meetings.
The public is welcome to share comments, compliments or complaints via the following form.