D.C. activist seeks school probe, ends up as target

Reported ‘offending child’ to officials

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If you see something, say something.

That’s what Ward 7 activist Geraldine Washington said she was doing when she alerted D.C. Public Schools officials to what she thought was the inappropriate touching of a child by another child.

But before long, she found herself surrounded by Metropolitan Police Department officers and served with a notice barring her from entering Randle Highlands Elementary School in Southeast, where her nephew is in first grade.

When she protested, Robert Utiger, general counsel of D.C. Public Schools, said her conduct justified barring her from the school grounds.

On Nov. 18, Ms. Washington wrote to interim Principal Tracy Foster that a first-grader who is a classmate of her nephew approached her that day and volunteered that another student had touched his “private parts,” according to emails obtained by The Washington Times.

“This is the third incident I am aware of as this same child ‘touched the private area’ of another classmate last year,” she wrote. “It leaves me wondering whether lawful and appropriate action, follow-up and counseling has been afforded this child. How many other children may be exposed to his molestation?”

Ms. Washington’s email further states that the law requires all assaults and inappropriate sexual behavior to be reported immediately to the proper authorities, and concludes, “Particularly in light of Penn State, I am once again alerting you and others to the knowledge I have acquired regarding this same student’s actions.”

Ms. Foster responded in an email that day that she had personally investigated the incident, which first came to the school’s attention in October, and spoke with the students’ parents, neither of whom “elected to involve the law enforcement authorities.” She urged Ms. Washington to report any further incidents immediately and told her she had the right to contact authorities if she chose.

Not satisfied with this response, Ms. Washington emailed Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson the next day, saying she was “deeply troubled” by what she considered to be a dismissive response by Ms. Foster.

“I am inquiring about the role and mandatory obligation of school officials to report and follow through on cases of child sexual abuse,” she wrote, according to the emails.

Ms. Washington also explained in her email to Ms. Henderson and Chief Lanier that she received similar reports the previous year from the mother of one of her nephew’s fellow kindergartners and that she became alarmed after finding out that the “offending child” was still seated next to the student whose mother had informed her of a purported touching. She said she was further alarmed to hear that the school had not immediately informed the mother of the student who was said to have been touched.

Swift response

A member of Ms. Henderson’s staff responded swiftly with information about the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency hotline and the training all “mandated reporters” undergo, and Ms. Washington reiterated her concerns about what may have caused the “offending child” to act out in such a manner.

A police department lieutenant emailed Ms. Washington a few days later saying she had assigned a detective to investigate the most recent matter.

The emails indicate that, at that point, Ms. Washington considered the matter under proper review. For good measure, she completed the family services agency’s neglect-and-abuse online training and spoke with a hotline representative about what occurred.

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