DC attorney general launches criminal investigation of Washington Hebrew preschool

Days after a civil suit alleging that at least eight children were sexually abused at a Washington Hebrew Congregation preschool was filed, the D.C. attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into the preschool and its administration.

“We can confirm that the Office of the Attorney General is conducting an investigation of the Washington Hebrew Congregation preschool, however, we will decline to comment further at this time,” a spokesperson told WTOP.

Monday’s lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, alleges that Edlavitch Tyser Early Childhood Center director Deborah “D.J.” Schneider Jensen failed to protect the children and was negligent amid “systemic, regular sexual abuse.”

The families who filed the suit say Jensen ignored multiple reports about an employee’s odd behavior with the children, who were 3 and 4 years old.

They also say the school broke D.C. law by allowing the man to be alone with students.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Michael Dolce, a lawyer to the plaintiffs in the case and a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, said, “The families are encouraged by the attorney general’s criminal investigation.”

“Child sex predators cannot sexually abuse such young children in a school unless the school neglects its duty to ensure child safety. We believe D.C. regulations mandate, under penalty of criminal prosecution, that school administrators ensure that two adults are present at all times with children to prevent a tragedy exactly like this,” Dolce said.

In a statement this week, a Washington Hebrew Congregation spokeswoman said it reported allegations to D.C. Child Protective Service and Police as soon as it learned of them on Aug. 16, 2018.

A police report dated Aug. 17, 2018 shows that D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency received an allegation of sexual abuse that occurred from Sept. 2, 2017 to Aug. 15, 2018.

According to the lawsuit, the teacher was frequently “allowed and encouraged to be alone with the children individually and in small groups,” the families’ attorneys wrote in a statement.

D.C. police have not filed charges against the employee but confirm he is under investigation.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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