DC officials implicated in investigation on preferential treatment by former schools chancellor

- A D.C. inspector general investigation has found a deputy mayor, an elected official and another mayoral appointee are among the city officials who were given preferential treatment by former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson.

According to the Washington Post, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden was able to get her son into Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan by requesting a special transfer from Henderson. The school has a waiting list of more than 1,000 people.

RELATED: Misconduct investigation finds former DC schools chancellor gave preferential treatment

Last month, the D.C. Office of the Inspector General said Henderson was being investigated for giving preferential treatment to some people, including D.C. officials, by authorizing transfers into some of the District’s most sought-after schools.

Snowden admitted she asked the chancellor to help with her son’s placement. In a statement, she said:

“My entire career I have fought to ensure that every child has access to high quality public schools no matter their income or zip code. Like all parents, choosing a school that was the right fit for my son was a responsibility that I took seriously. I worked really hard to find my son the right school placement through the lottery process. We all want the best for our kids and to that end, I was thankful to have the Chancellor’s discretion in understanding my son’s unique needs as I pursued an option available to every parent.”

“It certainly raises an eyebrow because it's such a popular school and such a great school,” said D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).

“When they say that there are District officials involved, that makes me very upset,” said Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large).

FOX 5 asked Mayor Muriel Bowser about what some believe could be special treatment.

“I'm assuming that the deputy mayor presented to the chancellor, which is the right of every parent, a special set of circumstances for her family and the chancellor made the decision that she thought was best,” Bowser said.

Who else is alleged of receiving special treatment? Grosso, the chairman of the Education Committee on the council, said he has seen the inspector general’s report. It does not list names, but refers to seven people, including a former elected official. Grosso is meeting with his lawyers to impose additional restrictions even though he believes past restrictions were violated.

“These restrictions were pretty clear and the chancellor decided it was okay to give some kind of preference outside of those restrictions and that is where we have the problem,” said Grosso.

Mayor Bowser has also been briefed by inspector general. She has instructed her staff to also come up with new guideposts for transfers authorized by current and future chancellors.

“My general counsel has just thrown out some ideas,” she said. “I would say it is too premature to talk about it and actually I think it is going to be important for us to consult with educators.”

Councilmember Allen said his office has received calls from parents after hearing about the probe. They are upset that they could not get their child into Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, but a city leader was able to.

Henderson said in a statement last month regarding the inspector general’s investigation:

“As the IG report notes, in my capacity as Chancellor, I made a very limited number of discretionary placements for students when extraordinary circumstances applied.  I stand by those actions. The IG does not provide evidence that placements were made improperly, only that they were discretionary.  If leaders in DC do not believe that there are situations when the chancellor should exercise discretion in determining student placements, they should eliminate that provision of the statute.  If leaders believe that, on rare occasions, there are unusual circumstances that require the judgement of the district leader, they should accept that discretionary placements will depend on judgement. I am deeply disappointed by these continual attacks on my integrity in an attempt to besmirch my personal and professional reputation.”

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