Washington Hebrew Congregation violated D.C. law, judge rules

September 25, 2022 Off By administrator

A judge has ruled that Washington Hebrew Congregation violated the District’s consumer protection law when it failed to follow several child safety regulations while operating its preschool, the latest in an ongoing lawsuit between the city and the Northwest Washington synagogue.

Other allegations laid out in the 2020 lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) — including a claim that the congregation misrepresented the safety of its programs to parents — will go to trial, Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. ruled.

The District has alleged the congregation frequently ignored city laws designed to keep children safe. Its lawsuit followed accusations that a teacher sexually abused more than a dozen toddlers for over a year, which are detailed in a separate lawsuit against the synagogue that was filed by a group of parents in 2019.

D.C. sues Washington Hebrew Congregation preschool for not protecting children from alleged sexual abuse

In April, Racine’s office filed a motion for summary judgment, a request for the court to make a ruling before a trial. Irving on Sept. 13 ruled on some of the city’s allegations and said others should be tried by a jury.

He ruled the congregation violated safety regulations by hiring unqualified teachers and assistant teachers, failing to maintain paperwork that showed staff were qualified and operating a summer program without a license.

He also ruled the congregation failed to properly report suspected child abuse — unrelated to the parents’ sex abuse lawsuit — to the District government on at least three occasions. Those instances, from 2016 and 2018, involved accusations that staff members used physical force with children, court documents show.

By violating child safety regulations, Irving said, the congregation breached the city’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which prohibits deceptive and illegal business practices, according to court filings.

“Washington Hebrew Congregation broke the law and ignored the rules intended to protect children in its care — with truly tragic consequences,” Racine said in a statement. “Childcare providers must hire qualified teachers and assistant teachers and immediately report suspected child abuse. With this ruling, we are one step closer to accountability.”

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Jennifer Millstone, the congregation’s director of member engagement, said leaders have taken all allegations seriously and that they were reported to D.C. police and Child Protective Services as soon as they were uncovered. She added the congregation continues to perform background checks on prospective educators and that staff participate in training and development.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of children in our care is embedded in our Jewish values. Throughout the criminal investigation, we brought in support and resources to help them and their families,” Millstone said. “We sympathize with the anger…

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