This story is co-published in partnership with the Chicago Reader. 

Today, Mayor Lori Lightfoot told The TRiiBE that it was a mistake for a member of her campaign  to send emails to Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers to encourage them to help with her re-election campaign in exchange for school credit. 

At a press conference this afternoon after her interview with The TRiiBE, Lightfoot said that she spoke to CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and Chicago Board of Education president Miguel del Valle and apologized to them for “this unnecessary distraction and mistake,” Lightfoot told reporters. 

She added that there was no coordination or coercion between her campaign and CPS in sending the emails to teachers.

“There was no coercion, no intent to do that, by any means by this young woman, and no city resources were used. The outreach to the CPS teachers via their emails was a mistake that should not have happened,” Lightfoot said. 

She also told reporters that the campaign staffer who sent the email would not be fired. Lightfoot said doing so would be the easy political thing to do but explained that it wasn’t the appropriate action to take. Instead, she’s calling what happened a teachable moment. 

“It’s not lost on me that I’m a role model to young women across the city, and I have an obligation given that to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to teach and mentor,” Lightfoot said. 

“It’s an opportunity for all of us to learn and for me to be a mentor and nurture her,” she added. 

Also, on Thursday, the City Colleges of Chicago confirmed receiving an email from Lightfoot’s campaign last August seeking student volunteers.

“City Colleges staff notified the campaign of CCC’s ethics policy and purged the emails from CCC accounts. City Colleges is not aware of having received subsequent campaign emails but is looking into the matter,” the statement reads. 

On Wednesday evening, Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign came under fire after asking Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers to encourage students to help her get re-elected in exchange for school credit. WTTW Politics Reporter Heather Cherone first reported the story

“Late yesterday afternoon, I learned that in an effort to recruit young people to the campaign . . . a campaign staffer accessed publicly available email addresses for CPS teachers,” Lightfoot said in a one-on-one interview with The TRiiBE before a Thursday afternoon press conference. “Obviously, that was a mistake. From day one, we erected not just a line but a wall, between the campaign political side and any official side,” she said. 

The campaign staffer “understands the magnitude of the issue that has been created,” Lightfoot added.

“I explained to her personally why this could not happen, and what the implications were. I think she gets it. We have reiterated our ethics standards, and why that wall is important to the entire staff again today.”

“It was a mistake, it shouldn’t happen. And I’m confident that won’t happen again.”

Mayoral candidates such as Brandon Johnson, Paul Vallas and Ald. Roderick Sawyer were quick to issue statements condemning the emails. Alderpersons Daniel LaSpata, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez and Byron Sigcho-Lopez issued a joint statement today that characterized the emails as “coercion of government employees to support her re-election campaign.”

On Thursday, CPS inspector general Will Fletcher announced an investigation of the incident. “[W]e are currently gathering information to determine which, if any, policies have been violated,” he told WGN News

The district has ethics guidelines for political activity. They state, “A political campaign should not be using the CPS email system to solicit volunteers and donations. Please report the behavior and forward the emails to Ethics Advisor.”

The Chicago Board of Ethics plans to discuss the matter at its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 23, according to WTTW

“They have every right to look into it, and if there is a need for us to respond, then we’ll cooperate fully,” Lightfoot said in response to a question about agencies like the Board of Ethics and the CPS inspector general launching investigations into the matter. 

Lightfoot said it is unclear how many emails were sent to CPS teachers.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.