Official Statement Regarding Forthcoming NBC4 Investigative Report from Duke Ellington School of the Arts Project
Dear Ellington Parents
We want to make you aware in advance that the local NBC affiliate for Washington, DC, NBC4, plans to air a two-part story, possibly as early as next week, covering allegations of sexual misconduct by several former Duke Ellington faculty, about which we have communicated to you in the past. We believe that there will be no new allegations mentioned in the stories. Instead, the stories will cover events that occurred in 2004 and 2013, and do not involve any current member of our faculty.
Parents and guardians who are not new to our community will recall that in 2018 Ellington initiated an investigation into an anonymously received report from a then-current Ellington student that a member of the Duke Ellington faculty had engaged in sexual contact with a former Ellington student and alumnus while that individual was enrolled at Ellington. Following our protocol, the school immediately notified DC Public Schools (DCPS) and local law enforcement, which investigated the allegations.
We also notified the parents and legal guardians of current Ellington students of the allegations immediately after law enforcement identified and communicated with the faculty member allegedly involved and the alleged victim. The teacher that was the subject of this investigation was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the final conclusions of the investigation. We then conducted assembly meetings with each class at the school to assure students that their questions, concerns, and personal experiences regarding the relevant faculty member could be confidentially brought forward and addressed.
Although the media is choosing to cover these events now, we want to remind our community that we have communicated, and will continue to communicate, transparently in real-time as matters such as this occur. We expect that the coverage will explore failures in the system at DCPS, the Metropolitan Police Department, and possibly what Ellington could have done better to protect our students.
I want to assure you that since commencing my duties as Principal in the 2017/18 school year Ellington has undertaken a number of initiatives to better equip us to protect our students. These measures include:
Modernizing our human resources program, and hiring a HR firm to help manage it, so that we have improved and searchable employee records;
Although Title IX investigations are conducted by DCPS , we hired a school based Title IX coordinator to supplement and accelerate DCPS Title IX examinations.
We created a new app feature that enables students to anonymously report sexual harassment or other behaviors that make them uncomfortable; and for those who may want to speak to a trusted adult, we appointed male and female personnel with whom students could have confidential conversations.
We have instituted a number of educational programs to both develop student awareness of situations that are potentially dangerous to them, and processes that encourage and make it easier for students to safely report potential abuse or inappropriate activity.
We have instituted several training sessions with faculty and staff regarding their responsibilities to prevent any sexual misconduct or hostile environment in the school and to respond appropriately to any allegations or signs of such misconduct.
It will be heartbreaking all over again for our community to rehear stories of our students’ traumas, but I welcome them being retold because it is a reminder that some of our students have silently and painfully endured horrible life-altering experiences that only our own vigilance can prevent in the future. Irrespective of how accurate or fair the media reporting might be to our community, I hope and trust that on balance the stories will serve the purpose of reminding us all that we owe our children a safe environment, and that our school administration, faculty, and staff, and the broader parent community all have a role to play in assuring sexual abuse is neither tolerated nor ignored.
Sincerely, Duke Ellington School of the Arts Project