Sexual abuse incident at DC school reveals issues with background checks

WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) -- After police say a school aftercare worker sexually abused a student the investigation has revealed problems with the certification of background checks for contractors at DCPS and charter schools.

Wednesday police arrested 21-year-old Jestin Hickman of Southeast D.C., charging him with child sex abuse. According to a police report, Hickman and the 13-year-old female victim would "kiss on the mouth and the suspect would place his hands on her clothed buttocks."

The ongoing touching, which began in January, was reported to police in mid-May.

The incident was first reported by WAMU.

Parents at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan were first informed about the incident June 8, prompting calls for increased transparency.

A parents group has circulated a letter demanding further answers and better oversight from District school leaders. It has more than 200 signatures, according to organizer and parent Danica Petroshius.

"The city has failed to communicate with us. They have failed to be transparent with us. They have failed to take action quickly and at all of the levels from the mayor to the Office of the State Superintendent for Education to DCPS to the public school charter board. They're all agencies that are supposed to be protecting our children. They're all pointing fingers. No one is taking responsibility," Petroshius said.

The investigation revealed that Springboard Education, the company which employed Hickman, could not prove to District officials it had done background checks on its workers.

DCPS declined to make Chancellor Lewis Ferebee available for an interview Wednesday.

In a statement a DCPS spokesman said "the privacy of our students is important to us. That priority, coupled with the active MPD investigation, is why we were not and are not able to disclose additional details regarding this incident."

DCPS confirmed it was reviewing procedures involving background check protocol for contractors.

Springboard Education tells FOX 5 it fired Hickman as soon as the allegations came to light. Fourteen of the 17 schools it runs before or aftercare programs across the District have suspended the programs until further notice.

According to Springboard Education Chief Operations Officer Mark Freidberg the company "identified there are some gaps in our record-keeping processes that we need to improve."

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For a second day, parents say they have gotten few answers after an alleged sex abuse incident led to questions about background checks for contractors who work with students in the District.

Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan held a meeting for parents Thursday night, but many tell FOX 5 officials did not answer their questions.

"Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. You know we see commercials -- the mayor does for the bike share. Why wasn't she here for this? It's important to put your face behind that. Why wasn't she or the chancellor here? This is about safety," said one parent who did not want to be identified. "As usual, they're not transparent. They're really vague and we never get a lot of feedback. We should have had information a long time ago."

Parents were also disappointed that Chancellor Lewis Ferebee was not in attendance.