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DCPS Child Abuse Suit Expands

When Carlet Harris, a mother of twins with austim, picked up her son from Ludlow Taylor Elementary School (659 G St. NE), she was shocked to find her five-year-old’s face swollen and two of his teeth loose. Afterwards, her child resisted returning to school.

In November, Harris became the fifth individual to join a group of parents who are suing the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) over the alleged abuse of their children. 

The Lawsuit 

In the summer of 2020, a group of parents filed a lawsuit was filed against the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) alleging its employees had assaulted, discriminated and isolated their children, many of whom are disabled. Many more parents have come forward this year about previous allegations of abuse of children at DC public schools, stated Yadia Ford, the attorney representing the families. 

“Some of them we couldn’t help because of statute of limitations,” Ford said. “You only have one year to bring certain claims against schools or school officials when the children are disabled.” 

The children of the other plaintiffs, Rachael Whatley, Bayoush Alemayhu, Jokaima Jones and Gold Ukegbu, were allegedly abused at the Walker Jones Education Campus and the River Terrace Education Campus. Their children were allegedly struck in the face, locked in a closet, assaulted and harassed and returned to them from school with a broken femur, respectively, the parents charge. 

Many of the children are unable to fully describe their experiences. Ford said that Harris “fits our class of parents because the child is intellectually disabled and non-verbal.” 

Reporting the Incident 

Ludlow Taylor, said Ford, did not report the matter officially or inform her. So, Harris informed the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Child and Family Services, Ford said. 

Aside from her personal concern, Harris was obligated to report the incident because she is a foster parent. The school, however, was obliged to notify guardians of the injuries sustained by the child while in the its care, stated Ford. Harris’s filed a grievance with the school. However, the her complaint was deemed “inconclusive,” Ford said.

DCPS did not respond to the filing for several months, said Harris. DCPS only began corresponding with her on the topic after an interview about the lawsuit was aired by Fox 5 on Sept. 9, 2020. 

After the alleged November 2019 incident, Ford said that the child resisted returning to his classroom after the Thanksgiving break. 

“He refused to go back to that classroom,” Ford said of Harris’s foster child. “He threw himself on the ground crying and screaming, but he would literally go to the classroom next door. He was so traumatized that he could not go back to his class, so she had to withdraw him.” 

The child is currently at home during the pandemic, Harris said.

A Pattern?

The alleged victims are at significantly increased risk given their disabilities. “They are intentionally hurting children that are disabled because they can’t talk and they can’t communicate; they’re vulnerable,” Ford said. “They’re not able to tell what happened.” 

DCPS is committed to providing every student, including those with disabilities, with a high-quality education that improves their academic outcomes and prepares them for life-long success,” a DCPS spokesperson said. “We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and while we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are actively working with the Office of the Attorney General to address the lawsuit,” stated DCPS in response to this reporter’s query.

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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