The Crusader Newspaper Group

Supporters of fired Lindblom principal demand CPS Law Department investigation

PICTURED LEFT TO RIGHT: Attorney Sa’Ad Alim Muhammad; Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals & Administrators Association; former Lindblom Math & Science Academy Principal Abdul Muhammad; and Attorney Ben Crump. 

It’s been almost a year since Lindblom Math & Science Academy Principal Abdul Muhammad was wrongfully fired. Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, calls for state, federal, and city investigations into the unjust removal of Black principals from their positions without due cause by CPS officials. 

Muhammad, a highly respected principal with 25 years of experience, is known for his proven academic track record. He has been acclaimed for creating a “pathway to excellence” with his students. Muhammad compared his academic success to that of CPS’ “pathway to failure and jail” of its Black students. 

From 2020 to 2023, Lindblom was without a principal. Students had begun to fight; there were unsanitary conditions in restrooms, high teacher absenteeism and lower performance on standardized tests. 

Despite organized attempts to reject Muhammad as the new principal by white teachers, one of whom mentioned his faith as a Muslim, he prevailed. Students’ scores improved, and he even walked students to the bus stops to prevent any fighting. 

Still, Muhammad was removed from Lindblom on March 31, 2023, and was not given a reason for his firing. It took Muhammad’s lawyer, Attorney Sa’Ad Alim Muhammad, to force CPS to reveal their rationale. At that time, Attorney Muhammad called CPS’ 82 charges “petty, trifling and meaningless.” Attorney Muhammad graduated from Lindblom in 1992. His father taught chemistry there for 38 years. 

Muhammad said, “We need an oversight committee. Nobody should have their career taken from them based on false charges. Nobody should have their name dragged through the media, and you can’t even prove what you’re saying. That is not fair.” 

Muhammad’s problems began when he conducted an audit and found that Kelly Tarrant, the then-athletic director, was allegedly depositing school funds into her personal bank account, according to Attorney Muhammad. Tarrant was never charged with theft of the funds and is now chief investigator of the Law Department. 

The allegations leveled against Muhammad were made by a handful of white teachers and a Black member of the Office of Local School Council Relations. “They waged a smear campaign against Mr. Muhammad, a former two-time Golden Apple award nominee and 2003 Teacher of the Year, and railroaded him out of office,” said LaRaviere. 

Muhammad, who has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against CPS, said, “When children don’t have a pathway in the school that they are in, the pathway that’s there is the pathway to prison.” 

He cited Dunbar High School, formerly a vocational institution, as an example. “Over the years vocations have been taken out of many schools in Chicago because they created a pathway for Black children. These schools created a pathway of employment for young students.”  

He said this created competition some unions didn’t want. “Many trades were taken out of the schools. If you have a school with no programs, what is the pathway for those children because not all of them will be going to college?” 

Saying CPS “has been getting away with railroading Black principals out of office for a long time. The community does not know because the process is a hidden one. There is no due process. It’s secretive.” Muhammad said. “There is no oversight, which is how they can get away with this.” 

He likened it to former Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge, who physically and psychologically forced Black men to confess to crimes they never committed. “They investigated themselves and charges were never made until the public began to demand changes. It is similar to how Black principals are being treated even if you present evidence of innocence.” 

Muhammad called for an oversight committee to monitor the removal of principals. “Nobody should have their career taken from them based on false charges.” 

Agreeing was LaRaviere, who said it is time for Blacks “to build an institution within our own community so that we can have some kind of oversight to inform the federal, state and city about the railroading of Black principals out of office.” 

He suggested that in addition to governmental offices, Chicago’s Civil Rights organizations could be a part of the citizens watchdog oversight committee that would report to state and federal entities and the City Council when principals are unfairly fired. 

CPS responded to Muhammad and LaRaviere’s calls for investigations into firing practices, stating: 

“At Chicago Public Schools (CPS) we know that Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and other school leaders of color make a huge impact on the lives of our students, not only academically, but socially, emotionally, and mentally. While we have made great strides to ensure that the diversity of our school leaders and central and network staff reflects the diversity of our student body, we are committed to continuing to invest in recruitment and retention efforts.  

“As a District, we strive to make sure all our schools have strong leaders dedicated to the success of their staff, students and communities. The District has comprehensive procedures in place to thoroughly investigate allegations of staff misconduct, ensuring our employees are afforded proper due process, and make fair employment decisions. Such investigations take time and preclude us from providing ongoing and detailed updates, however, we are confident in the decisions made by the leaders of our District. 

“We are committed to continuing to work with families and community members to ensure that we address their concerns and ensure that our schools are safe and inclusive learning environments for all students and staff.” 

“This is needed because all of the things CPS does in secret must come out in   the open,” LaRaviere said. “We can’t have a government institution making decisions about people’s livelihoods behind closed doors. That is not how the government should work. Management is the institution that is operating in secret, particularly CPS’ Law Department. 

“It’s time the state, federal government and the City Council investigate Kelly Tarrant, manager of Investigations for CPS. Tarrant is responsible for the removal of Muhammad, Kimberly Gibson, former principal of the Harriet Tubman Elementary School, and Gerald Morrow, former principal of Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, all of whom are African American with proven academic records.” 

“The investigation should also include her boss, Ruchi Verma, who is the general counsel for CPS. I can’t imagine Kelly firing anyone without her boss’ approval,” said LaRaviere. 

“The investigation should begin with Tarrant because her name is all over these complaints. She is behind the fraudulent case against Mr. Muhammad. She won’t even release the charges against Gerald Morrow. He still doesn’t know what his charges are; yet Tarrant is still investigating his case while she already had him removed,” LaRaviere stated. 

He accused Tarrant of “being able to operate like that with impunity. It reminds me of Jon Burge. She gets to do whatever she wants, abuse and violate the law and not give people due process of law. 

“You should know what you’re charged with,” LaRaviere stated. “That is the basic element of due process. She creates cases against people, but she doesn’t tell them what they’re charged with beyond some vague mismanagement allegation, and then she removes them. 

“That will not hold water anywhere, but it holds water with CPS management, and the Board of Education seems to be allowing it to happen,” LaRaviere said. This is why there needs to be “supportive pressure” on the Board of Education “to hold management, particularly the Law Department, accountable for what they have allowed Tarrant to do. If we start with her, we will get to the bottom of this.” 

So far, 10 principals have been removed, eight of whom are Black. He said not all Black principals want to fight back, but he is fighting for Muhammad, Morrow, and Gibson. 

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