A Chicago Public Schools teacher is pushing back against the district after she says her son’s principal reported her to child protective services for neglect when he was picked up from school seven minutes late.
JaNay Dodson was about to start teaching one of her virtual science classes for Hyde Park Academy on March 2 when she realized she wasn’t going to get to Lakeview in time to pick up her 10-year-old son at Inter-American Magnet School.
Braylin was supposed to have a bus take him to and from Inter-American, 851 W. Waveland Ave. But on the second day of classes for some CPS students, Braylin’s school still hadn’t given him a bus route, Dodson said.
Dodson was unable to leave her class or reach anyone at the school, so she called her brother, who left work and picked up Braylin at 4:37 p.m.
“So Braylin gets out of school at 4 p.m. … and my brother got there at 4:37, and he was home by 5 p.m.,” Dodson said. “And that was the end — so I thought.”
A CPS policy sent to all principals Feb. 5 states whenever a student who cannot travel home independently is stranded after school, staff should call the parent and all emergency contacts. Those people must be told the school will be obligated to call the Police Department and Department of Children and Family Services if the child is not picked up by 4:30 p.m.
Two days later, Braylin was pulled out of class and questioned by a DCFS investigator, Dodson said. Then another person from the agency showed up to inspect her home and collect contact information for people who could vouch for her parenting, she said.
The situation has outraged fellow teachers and parents. Some said they’ve had their own frightening experiences with their children because of this policy, or they have had similar frustrations with district transportation this spring. Others said they’ve also been late picking up their kids many times but never have been reported to police or DCFS.
Inter-American’s principal, Daniela Bylaitis, did not return requests for comment. A spokesperson for DCFS said the agency only confirms investigations in situations where a child has died.
A CPS spokesperson said district officials are looking into what happened to Dodson and Braylin.
“The policies the district has in place are intended to keep students supervised and safe,” the CPS spokesperson said. “That said, we are aware of the circumstances of the incident and we are in the process of reviewing it.”
Dodson said she fears how any record of a DCFS investigation — even if they determine there was no abuse or neglect — will affect her career as a teacher. And after almost a year of remote learning, the incident has made it difficult to persuade Braylin to go to school, Dodson said.
“He was so excited to go back to school because he said he could focus better there, but then he suddenly didn’t want to go to school anymore because he was worried the DCFS lady would come to his classroom again and take him,” Dodson said.