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Saga of Secret D.C. School Names Ends: D.C. Schools Now Say No Children Were Involved in 2018-19 Sexual Misconduct Cases

Fritz Mulhauser | March 3, 2021

D.C. Public Schools officials now say that the cases of sexual misconduct in four schools in 2018-19 did not involve students. This information has been withheld from anxious parents but was obtained by the Open Government Coalition under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In response to community concern in 2019 after an incident came to light of inappropriate contractor staff contact with a 13-year-old in after-care, Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn acknowledged there had been six other confirmed cases since January 2018.

Kihn declined to disclose further information, citing concerns for past victims and a potential chilling effect on future victims. In a letter explaining his rationale to Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Denise Krepp, Kihn added that it’s already district policy for “school communities [to be] informed of such incidents as they occur.”

The Open Government Coalition believed the wide interest, especially among concerned parents, justified public release of the six school names and asked for them under FOIA.  DCPS claimed a privacy exemption but the mayor’s office rejected it.

The agency finally revealed in October 2020 that the misconduct by DCPS employees took place at Dunbar High School, Watkins Elementary School, West Education Campus, and Malcolm X Elementary School. The other two incidents were not in school buildings.

When a reporter could only confirm a briefing at Dunbar, the Coalition asked D.C. Public Schools for any evidence of the kind of school communications Mr. Kihn cited in his contention that further public information was unnecessary.

The agency has now explained “the incidents at Watkins Elementary School, West Education Campus, and Malcolm X Elementary School did not involve students. Pursuant to DCPS policy, school communities are not notified about incidents that do not involve students.”

The parents who asked questions back in summer 2019 probably would have been much relieved if DCPS had said this at the time.