WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - A man identified by court records as a sex offender briefly kidnapped two children from Rocketship Rise Academy in Southeast on October 11, according to police, but the school didn't inform parents about the incident until Tuesday.
The police report and charging documents say 30-year-old Antonio Burnside of Southeast followed a mother inside the charter school while an after school program was going on, played basketball with a child for at least 15 minutes and convinced the boy and his brother to follow him out of the school.
A school resource officer almost immediately followed Burnside and the boys out and separated them before Burnside could be arrested. The children were not hurt.
Burnside repeatedly told staff he was the father of one of the children and seemed to get the child to believe him in order to coax him and a sibling out, according to court documents.
Court records show Burnside is a sex offender as a result of an attempted kidnapping case involving a child in 2018. The charges in that case were downgraded from sexual abuse of a minor in a plea deal.
Parents tell FOX 5 they didn't know about the incident until Tuesday. Rocketship Rise Academy sent FOX 5 a letter addressed to parents dated October 29.
In a statement to FOX 5 Rocketship said:
“We are incredibly grateful for the diligence of our front office staff at Rocketship Rise Academy who prevented the abduction of two students from an aftercare program on our campus when school was not in session. This was a traumatic experience for all of us and we are committed to supporting our students and their family through the resulting criminal investigation. As a result of this incident, we are reviewing the security procedures of our aftercare provider and reassessing our partnership with them. This incident occurred when school was not in session during Parent Conference Day. Moving forward, we will also be enforcing mandatory ID checks at all times for any adult entering our campus - including when school is not in session. The safety of our students is our number one priority at Rocketship Rise Academy.”
They continued late Tuesday on why parents were notified two weeks after the incident:
"Our parents depend on after-school care. There are limited options available in DC and in our evaluation of service providers, Springboard was one of only a few providers capable of providing onsite care for the number of students we serve. Our contract with Springboard requires all of their staff complete background checks before stepping foot on our campus and our team regularly reviews this documentation to ensure Springboard is 100% compliant with this requirement. This is an active criminal investigation and we erred on the side of confidentiality until the investigation was complete. We should have notified parents sooner and take full responsibility that our parents deserve to be promptly informed on school safety incidents, including those that occur when school is not in session."
The after-school program at Rocketship Rise Academy is run by Springboard Education. It is the same company fired by DC Public Schools this school year after a sexual abuse incident at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan in June.
The incident revealed Springboard Education could not provide documentation its workers had gone through background checks.
Springboard Education said in a statement to FOX 5:
"On Friday, October 11 an individual entered Rocketship Rise Academy and tried to encourage two students who were participating in Springboard’s after school program to leave the building with him. He was not authorized to pick-up these students and was stopped by Springboard and Rocketship staff.
We take seriously the security and safety of all students. Currently, all parents and guardians authorized to pick-up students are required to show an ID and sign out students daily. As a result of this incident however, we have begun to review all our security procedures, including our partnership with Rocketship and their role in helping maintain a safe and secure space while students our under our care. In addition, we have scheduled a series of quarterly staff refresher trainings on safety and security protocols. Students will also be reminded regularly of what to do if a stranger comes to pick them up."
The office of the Deputy Mayor for Education also confirmed it is investigating the incident at Rocketship, with the following statement:
"The safety and wellbeing of all students across DC public and public charter schools is our priority. With the incident at Rocketship, we are extremely relieved that no children where physically harmed. We are currently investigating the incident and continue to work with the school and the Public Charter School Board to review and ensure strong policies are in place for student safety, and to ensure consistent and timely communication with families and school communities."
Burnside is being held in jail until his next hearing.