Washington Hebrew Congregation to pay $950K in child safety lawsuit
WASHINGTON – D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine says the Jewish Congregation of Washington, a synagogue that also runs a child care center, will have to pay nearly $1 million after allegations that children there were sexually abused by an employee.
The district sued the congregation, saying it violated a D.C. law requiring at least two adults to be in a room with a minor.
“What happened at the Jewish Congregation of Washington is every parent’s worst nightmare,” AG Racine said in a statement. “Instead of protecting the children in their care, Washington Jewish ignored the law and failed to report incidents of harm, hired unqualified teachers and ran an unlicensed summer child care center for years. The most vulnerable residents on the street of damage”.
Leaders of the Northwest-based Reform Jewish synagogue argued they could not be held responsible because the parents signed a waiver.
READ MORE: Families file suit against Jewish Congregation of Washington preschool over alleged child sexual abuse
As a result of the dismissals, the WHC told a D.C. judge in July that parents cannot hold the school legally responsible for alleged sexual abuse committed by their employee. The school argued that the waiver means they can only be sued for extreme or intentional behavior and that there is no evidence to suggest the school intended the abuse to occur.
In September, WHC was found liable in D.C. court for violating several district child care center regulations.
On Wednesday, Racine’s office announced that WHC has agreed to provide $950,000 in total payments. Families who enroll their children in WHC’s summer child care program, Camp Keetov, during the 2016-2018 summers will receive $300,000; $100,000 is allocated to an approved DC charity; and $550,000 will be paid to the city for civil penalties and legal costs.
WHC must also prohibit all practices that violate the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
READ MORE: Preschooler accused of neglect abuse puts leader on leave
In a statement shared with FOX 5, WHC President Lewis Wiener said, “We are pleased that the Jewish Congregation of Washington and the DC Attorney General have reached an agreement and that a significant portion of the settlement funds will go to a DC charity and the families whose children attended Camp Keetov in 2016, 2017 and 2018. We are proud of our Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center and its educators, who provide a warm and inviting environment where children can to feel safe as they discover the world around them.
“The same values we hold dear as adults — kindness, compassion and community — are part of the very foundation of our early childhood centers,” he continued. “The agreement with the DC OAG allows the Jewish Congregation of Washington to close this chapter and move forward. Under exceptional new spiritual and administrative leadership, WHC can continue to grow as a warm, welcoming community open to all who want to build a meaningful Jewish life.”
Read the full settlement agreement below: