DC Attorney General Karl Racine has filed a lawsuit against Washington Hebrew Congregation for allegedly violating District laws that protect children from abuse in its childcare center.
Washington Hebrew Congregation is a synagogue that also offers a paid childcare service. Racine’s office accuses the Congregation of “creating an environment ripe for abuse” in a consumer protection lawsuit.
The synagogue’s childcare center placed children in the care of unqualified, unsupervised staff, operated in violation of its license, and misled parents about the safety of its programs, according to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
The facility disclosed allegations in 2018 that children had been sexually abused by an assistant teacher, Racine’s office said in a statement, adding that OAG is now seeking relief for harmed families, a court order to ensure the childcare center complies with District law moving forward, and civil penalties to deter it from engaging in misconduct in the future.
“Washington Hebrew Congregation repeatedly ignored District child safety laws and failed to protect children in its care—and as a result, fifteen children have reported abuse,” said Racine. “Our lawsuit against Washington Hebrew seeks restitution for these children and their families. The Office of the Attorney General will not hesitate to hold accountable District childcare providers if they do not follow the law.”
#BREAKING: Today my office filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Washington Hebrew Congregation's preschool for ignoring childcare safety laws, misleading parents, and leaving kids vulnerable to abuse: https://t.co/AYgEaL8Kka pic.twitter.com/oOCxlyS2PE
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) October 21, 2020
The center’s leadership routinely ignored laws that are designed to protect children from abuse such as the requirement of keeping at least two staff members always present with children at childcare facilities to avoid the risk of child abuse by teachers or other employees, OAG says.
The center also repeatedly hired assistant teachers who failed to meet the District’s minimum requirements for experience and education for childcare providers and did not obtain background checks for its employees.
Managers of the center dismissed dozens of suspected child abuse complaints from teachers involving an assistant teacher, and instead, they threatened anyone who complained about this assistant teacher with firing, according to the OAG’s statement.