October 21, 2020
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Wednesday that he is suing Washington Hebrew Congregation, a synagogue that also operates a childcare center, for allegedly endangering children and violating local childcare laws.
The complaint alleges that the Cathedral Heights congregation placed children in the care of “unqualified and under-supervised” staff, operated in violation of its license and misled parents about the safety of its programs.
Racine’s complaint notes that, to date, fifteen children have made sexual abuse allegations against an “unqualified, unsupervised” former assistant teacher. Several of those allegations were the basis of a civil complaint filed by a group of families against the synagogue last year.
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Racine’s office alleges that the childcare center operated an unlicensed summer camp, hired teachers who did not meet the city’s education and experience requirements and disregarded a D.C. regulation requiring childcare centers to have at least two staff members present with children at all times — a failure that allowed children to be alone with the staff member who allegedly abused them.
The suit also alleges that Washington Hebrew leadership failed to adequately report suspected child abuse to parents and regulators, brushing off concerns from staff about the conduct of the assistant teacher, who was later accused of abusing multiple children.
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Last year, the families of eight former students sued the early childhood center, alleging that it allowed the “prolonged and repeated” abuse of three-and four-year-old children in its care.
“Systemic, regular sexual abuse of such young children and in large numbers in an educational environment does not occur in the absence of neglect by the school administrators of their duty to operate the environment in a manner that thwarts the ability of would-be and unknown predators to access children alone, without visibility or accountability, in order to abuse them,” read the complaint, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
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