The I.G. Report Everyone Talks About But No One Has Seen

UPDATE: More community sentiment is detailed in lengthy Post follow-up report May 21, under a headline, "After favoritism revealed in school lottery, D.C. parents wait on apology."

Anger has grown over revelations in recent weeks from a D.C. Inspector General review of special school admissions granted by former chancellor Kaya Henderson—anger first among parents but then more broadly over the official response to the actions.

The I.G. reported February 10 in a brief note to the mayor (sent also to the Council April 12) that a study of seven 2015 incidents found Henderson (who resigned her post in June 2016) admitted children of some well-connected families to sought-after schools. Her decisions stretched the authority for such “discretionary” decisions, bypassing the lottery and “failing to act impartially.”

The findings were dramatic and have been widely covered since the first Washington Post story April 28 revealing that the lucky families included a high official in D.C. government.

The mayor took steps to tighten procedures for discretionary admissions in the future, and Council Education Committee chair, David Grosso (Ind.-At Large), expressed concern and asked for a briefing, details of which appeared in a Post follow-up May 10.

But the report itself has not surfaced. Those who knew of it said the I.G. requested it be considered “confidential.”  Grosso did not release it, despite telling the Post, “I don’t think there’s any issue in this report that can’t be public.”

Then the Post obtained a copy this week (May 17) and reported on it in more detail under a headline "secret report."

Requests for the report are pending with the I.G. under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act that allows public access to government records with only a few exceptions. Nothing in that law allows a record to be secret just because an official calls it  “confidential.” And the I.G. has not been quoted in any story denying the accounts of parts of the report. Personally identifiable information is often exempted to protect privacy, but the report is said to omit names of the seven families. Other specific facts that could be reverse-engineered to find the subjects could easily be masked in a released record, allowing the Inspector General’s general discussion to become public to show what Henderson did, her justification and their analysis.

As the CIA continued for years to deny whether or not they had any records of drone strikes, speeches by high officials explaining and justifying the program eventually made that untenable. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit noted in a 2013 opinion in ACLU v. CIA, there is a significant line of FOIA cases about “official acknowledgment,” holding that when an agency has officially acknowledged otherwise exempt information through prior disclosure, the agency has waived its right to claim an exemption with respect to that information.  

The I.G. response (to the pending requests) will be interesting.