21 Aug 2019

Opinions:

Withholding information protects the predators: Ask Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn to release data

K. Denise Rucker Krepp. Portrait by María Helena Carey

Earlier this summer, 58 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANC) and State Board of Education (SBOE) representatives representing all wards in the city sent a letter to Mayor Bowser requesting information about sexual assault, abuse, and harassment in DC schools. We did so because of the sexual abuse that occurred at Capitol Hill Montessori, the latest in a series of sexual assault cases reported on by reporters. None of the information can be foundon DC Public Schools website. (You can read Danica Petroshius’s opinion regarding this subject here.– Ed)


Mayor Bowser provided information on the number of complaints filed at DC public schools but declined to provide the name of the schools. Additionally, she declined to provide information regarding charter and private schools. Capitol Hill Montessori parents were notified in June that aftercare programs were cancelled but they weren’t told why. It wasn’t until Martin Austermuhle at WAMU reported on an alleged incident involving a student and aftercare employee that the school and DCPS leadership
shared the full details.

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time that parents learned about sexual assault and harassment at DC schools from the press. Perry Stein and Peter Jamison of the Washington Post shared information in September 2018 about the Roosevelt High School principal who mocked a student’s sexual assault claim. Scott MacFarlane, NBC4, wrote about a KIPP DC KEY Academy teacher who was sentenced to three years in prison in January 2018 for sexual abuse of a student. St. Albans, per a February 5, 2019 article by Justin William Moyer of the Washington Post, is now investigating sexual misconduct.

If a parent wanted to find out if sexual assault, abuse, or harassment had occurred at her child’s school, she wouldn’t be able to do so. This information is not posted on the DC Public Schools website, only DC school leaders have it. That’s why we sent the June 24th letter, we wanted this information to be publicly available to everyone.

On August 8th, the Deputy Mayor for Education shared that DC school leaders first started tracking sexual harassment, assault, and abuse data on January 1, 2018. Since that time, there have been 6 cases of substantiated sexual harassment, 3 pending cases, and 18 unsubstantiated cases at DC public schools. The Deputy Mayor declined to provide any information on charter and private schools.


We asked where the six substantiated cases occurred and the Deputy Mayor declined to provide the information. He stated in an August 20th email that, “We do not believe we have heard a compelling argument to release such an aggregated list, i.e. how this list will help keep students safe.”

The Deputy Mayor’s response was stunning. No compelling argument? Hasn’t Mayor Bowser learned from the numerous sex-related scandals reported on the past two years involving higher education and religious institutions that withholding information protects the predators?


I need your help. I’m respectfully requesting that you contact the Deputy Mayor and ask that he release the names of the schools where the sexual harassment, abuse, and assault was occurring. The Deputy Mayor’s email address is Paul.Kihn@dc.gov. Sending this email will help make DC public, private, and charter schools safer for all of our children.

Denise Krepp is ANC6B10 commissioner and parent of two children enrolled in a DC charter school


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