Families Sue DC Synagogue Preschool Alleging it Ignored Child Sexual Abuse

April 16, 2019
Washington Hebrew Congregation Early Childhood Center

(JTA) — The families of eight children who attended the preschool at a prominent Washington, D.C., synagogue have filed a lawsuit accusing the school of ignoring signs that a teacher was abusing children.

The civil suit accuses the school of failing to protect the children from “a known and avoidable risk of sexual abuse” by a teacher employed at the Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center from 2014 until he was suspended in 2018 over allegations that he “may have engaged in inappropriate conduct involving one or more children.”

A statement sent to media outlets by the families’ attorneys said the male teacher “was allowed and encouraged to be alone with the children individually and in small groups,” and that the alleged abuse affected both boys and girls aged 2 to 4.

“The abuse included the most grievous, demeaning and damaging forms of sexual abuse,” it said.

The suit was filed late Monday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court.

The families who filed the suit are not identified in the document and have asked to remain anonymous throughout the legal proceedings to protect their children’s privacy, according to the attorneys.

The accused teacher is named in the suit and in the statement. He has not been criminally charged and is not a defendant in the suit.

A spokeswoman for Washington Hebrew, Amy Rotenberg, said the temple is still reviewing the lawsuit, The Washington Post reported.

“In August 2018, Washington Hebrew Congregation immediately reported the allegations to DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) and Child Protective Services as soon as we learned of them,” Rotenberg said in an email. “Since that moment and for the past eight months we have continually and fully cooperated with the ongoing criminal investigation.

“We have taken this matter seriously and have kept the community regularly apprised of what we know,” she wrote.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia told CNN on Monday evening that an investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children at the school is ongoing.

Washington Hebrew, which is affiliated with the Reform movement, has about 3,000 member families and is the oldest congregation in the city. The synagogue has deep roots in Washington’s political establishment and counts among its members prominent influencers of both parties.

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