Parents Want Answers to Questions Surrounding Misconduct Allegations: Please sign letter by 3 PM Wed. June 12, 2019
June 12, 2019
Deputy Mayor Kihn
Executive Director Pearson
We, the undersigned, write to you in the wake of the alleged incident of sexual misconduct by an adult employee of Springboard on a minor at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan to request answers to critical questions about how our entire system, including DCPS and charter school districts, is supporting and protecting students. This recent incident demonstrates that our system is failing our students from top to bottom and across sector and parents deserve a swift and full response: every parent in DC deserves full transparency about what happened (while protecting the privacy of the minor); the Administration must take a hard look at OSSE, DCPS and PCSB to understand how this could have happened under any of the current leaders’ watches and make changes as appropriate; the Administration must urgently strengthen the policies and procedures that protect our students from harm and review every provider to ensure safety/background compliance; and the Council must delve deeply into what happened and provide necessary oversight and demand changes.
We want to be clear. This is a system failure, not an individual school failure. We need our system leaders to step up immediately. The system failed in at least the following ways and we demand answers as to why:
FAILURE OF OVERSIGHT AND INTERNAL CONTROLS
· OSSE failed to ensure that Springboard kept proper records of background checks, a key lever for student safety from predators and bad actors. According to WAMU: “Though Springboard reports that all of their staff members have background checks, they have been unable to produce records of them as is required. This is a citywide issue with Springboard and has impacted both DCPS and charter schools…” According to WAMU even the Springboard leadership knew about this: “Freidberg confirmed there had been problems with Springboard’s record-keeping on background checks for its employees in D.C.” Why did OSSE not know about this failure to comply with the rules with Springboard operating 21 programs across DC?
· OSSE failed to ensure licensure of all of the Springboard programs which would be another step in ensuring all policies are being followed and as a result put into question every current provider as to whether they are safe to work with children. According to WAMU, “only 6 [of its 21 programs in DC] were licensed.” The safety of children under the care of every provider of child services where youth are is now under question. Why is OSSE not licensing every provider at every site? Has anyone at OSSE been fired failing to oversee providers appropriately? Will OSSE now review every provider that is currently working with our DCPS, charter schools, DPR and libraries to ensure that every adult has had a background check and other safety compliance before summer programming begins and prior to next school year?
From WAMU: “The Office of the State Superintendent of Education is charged with overseeing background checks for employees of before and after school program providers, and is supposed to annually monitor all licensed programs in D.C. public and charter schools.”
· DCPS and PCSB (and its LEAs), failed to ensure that all of the safety policies are being followed – another protection for students: where OSSE fails, our district leaders must be a safety net for our students. Instead, 21 sites in both DCPS and charter LEAs across the city contracted with or created MOUs with Springboard to operate on specific campuses. The contractual relationship is with the LEA and they are responsible for ensuring that partners and all staff have the necessary background checks. Schools ensure parents have background checks and TB tests so that we can attend field trips with our students. But DCPS and the PCSB LEAs aren’t ensuring that every adult working in our buildings through partners has appropriate background checks. Why didn’t DCPS and PCSB LEAs not know that every adult working at schools has appropriate background checks? Are we making sure that we address ongoing culture of safety in all school buildings including policies like "safety plans" that put the onus on the children to protect themselves instead of the onus on the adults to ensure our children are safe?"
FAILURE OF COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSPARENCY
Parents did not begin to have details until the WAMU story broke on June 11, 2019. And questions remain unanswered. This is another incident of parents finding out more from the media then those who are responsible for the education and safety of our children, and still not knowing the full set of facts we are permitted to know.
· OSSE has failed to communicate or address the situation. Why has OSSE said nothing, explained nothing to parents and the public? From WAMU on June 11, 2019: “No OSSE official was available to speak about the situation with Springboard or the role the agency plays in ensuring all employees of providers have the proper background checks completed.”
· LEAs provided vague – and at times misleading – information. Parents deserve to have significant information provided in a timely, transparent way.
o No information on what happened between mid-May and June 10. Parents were told on June 8 that as of June 10, Springboard was suspended from working in any DC school without any indication of when the incident happened. Yet WAMU reported that the incident occurred in mid-May. When did the incident occur exactly? When did the victim make a report? When was MPD called?
o Communications with parents began on Saturday June 8 and did not mention a student was a victim. There was no information provided on when the incident occurred or whether the incident involved a minor. What is the existing protocol for reporting and addressing sexual misconduct/harassment? When there is a case referred to MPD, what are the protocols for informing parents at the affected school? Who wrote the statements that went to parents from LEAs and school Administrations?
o Later communications were misleading or evasive as to whether a student was a victim. Communications throughout the weekend and Monday were carefully worded that the misconduct “did not involve a Springboard student.” This carefully worded, evasive legalize only created fear that it was not a Springboard student but in fact another student at the school that was not involved in Springboard. No clarity was provided until the WAMU story on June 11. In fact, a 13-year old student was the victim. What is DCPS protocol for informing parents that there was a student victim at their school site? What is the protocol for ensuring clear, timely and transparent information is provided?
LACK OF HUMAN RESPONSE FOCUSED ON STUDENTS
With such a shocking and terrifying occurrence, no leader in the city has stepped up to provide leadership on how communities and parents should handle such a situation.
· What is the city’s plan for improving existing protocols? What are the city’s policies and practices on helping communities understand and process such an incident including the ability to ask questions? What is the city’s policy on sharing information with parents on how to talk to their children about the incident and best support them as they process it and learn how to understand good/bad touch and when and how to report such incidents? Where is the concern for our students? And specifically, Mayor Bowser, how will you, as the leader in charge of all of our schools, fix these fundamental and systemic problems that work against student success?
We ask that a full response to this letter, including the questions asked, be provided by June 26, 2019.
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