- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2019


Do you know who’s minding your children? Do you want to know?

If you answer ‘yes,’ then hold yourself, your elected leaders and their appointed educrats accountable.

Here’s the why.

Parents whose kids attend a Montessori school on Capitol Hill learned this week that an adult in the before-and-after school program had been sexually abusing one of the girls. She is 13, he is 21.

When D.C. school officials began combing records to find out who this guy is, they discovered they did not know. They knew his name and who he worked for — Massachusetts contractor Springboard Education. They also discovered that Springboard has 100 or so employees contracted to D.C. schools.

The suspected pervert was fired, and the city has suspended Springboard’s before-and-after programs.

With but a day’s notice, it’s a good thing for parents that June 14 is the end of the regular school year.

However, city officials must resurrect that essay of old, “How Did You Spend Summer Vacation?”

The answer to that depends on whether they will hold themselves accountable for what happened in the Springboard case, as well as other school-related abuse problems.

David Grosso, the longtime chairman of the D.C. Council Committee on Education, appears at first blush to understand what’s at stake: “In just the past year, several incidences of sexual assault … have occurred here in the District of Columbia, in traditional public, public charter, and private schools.”

“We must redouble our efforts to prevent these violations,” he said.

Here’s the rub. Mr. Grosso also pats himself on the back: “That is why I recently introduced, passed, and fully funded the School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act. This law requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students. The bill also increases the requirements of D.C. Public Schools, charter schools, and private schools to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students, including those who provide before- and after-care. Schools must also train staff, contractors, and volunteers on preventing, detecting, and reporting sexual abuse or misconduct.”

The word “Omnibus” gives the clue that these are not preventive measures. It’s not the responsibility of schools, principals, teachers and coaches to “uncover past sexual misconduct” of potential school employees. That responsibility falls to Mr. Grosso, his fellow lawmakers, the mayor and her appointees.

There’s a difference between screening a potential employee and conducting a thorough and comprehensive criminal background check on a potential employee.

There’s no question that schools’ staff can help prevent sexual abuse by keeping by their eyes and ears open.

There’s another lesson school oversight dictates — and that’s what is the upshot of laws and policies that place all things remotely related to a schoolhouse or education on the backs of faculty.

Mr. Grosso makes it sound as if the school — a mere building — is responsible. No way.

The responsibility and accountability must be strapped to the backs of elected leaders who propose, sign and implement contracts.

And parents must hold them accountable.

Schools may be out, but as a prospectus would explain, this summer’s course assignments must be fulfilled before school year 2019-20 begins.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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