A Washington, D.C., public charter school is under investigation by D.C. police and D.C.’s attorney general for failure to report a suspected sex offense by a teacher, according to officials with each agency.
Police reports show the investigation stems from Capital City Public Charter Schools’ handling of longtime former social studies teacher Alan Coleman, who pleaded guilty last week to child sex abuse for a relationship with a 14-year-old girl he taught at a prior school in 2004.
Coleman managed to find a new teaching job in Florida weeks after he was fired by Capital City Public Charter School for suspected child sex abuse, according to a News4 I-Team investigation.
The I-Team investigation of Capital City Public Charter School’s handling of Coleman’s case raises questions about when the school notified authorities about its suspicions of the teacher’s misconduct. Though the school fired Coleman in March 2015, days after learning of allegations of his prior sex abuse of a student, the Metropolitan Police Department said it was not notified about Coleman’s abuse case until April 2016. A police official told the I-Team the agency was not first notified about Coleman’s suspected abuse by Capital City Public Charter School but by the victim herself.
D.C. law requires any adult who learns of suspected child abuse to promptly notify police of their suspicions, according to a D.C. police spokesman.
The I-Team investigation revealed Coleman secured a new teaching job at Eastside High School in Gainesville, Florida, four months after he was fired by Capital City Public Charter School. His job application, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, included a positive job reference from a fellow Capital City Public Charter School teacher. “Mr. Coleman had a fantastic rapport with his students,” the reference letter said.
Gainesville school officials told the I-Team they conducted a mandatory background check on Coleman in summer 2015. They said the report came back clean. Gainesville school officials said they also received a positive job reference from a former principal, who’d recently retired, at Capital City Public Charter School.
The I-Team’s investigation shows Capital City Public Charter School notified school parents about Coleman’s firing and arrest by letter in May 2016, weeks after Coleman’s arrest by D.C. police and more than a year after the school terminated his employment. “We have been cooperating with the appropriate District officials and were asked to keep the matter confidential so as not to jeopardize their investigation,” the letter said.
Capital City Public Charter School declined multiple requests for an interview and declined to answer specific questions about when it notified police or its own staff about Coleman’s suspected sex abuse.
In a written statement to the I-Team, a school spokeswoman said, “We are confident that we discharged our responsibilities properly in this matter. We have cooperated with law enforcement in all phases of its investigation and will continue to do so.”
A spokesman for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said the office’s review of individuals at Capital City Public Charter School is ongoing. “The allegations in this matter are currently under investigation, and the complainant is cooperating with our office,” the spokesman said. “Our prosecutors will make a determination regarding whether charges will be filed in this case once our investigation has been completed.”
Coleman declined requests for comment from the I-Team after a court appearance in late October. According to court proceedings, Coleman pleaded guilty to a count of child sex abuse. Attorneys told the judge they expect to recommend three years prison time when Coleman is sentenced in January.
According to police reports, Coleman’s victim was a 14-year-old student of his in 2004 at DC’s KIPP DC Key Academy public charter school.
A police affidavit said KIPP DC Key Academy’s principal met with officers in April 2016, shortly before Coleman’s arrest. According to the affidavit, the KIPP DC Key Academy principal told officers she declined to renew Coleman’s contract after the 2004 school year amid concerns Coleman had an “inappropriate” relationship with the student.
When contacted by the I-Team last month, KIPP DC Key Academy said, “If there was evidence of the misconduct Mr. Coleman was later charged with, we would have immediately alerted the appropriate authorities. The nature of the inappropriate relationship that led to us not extending Mr. Coleman an offer letter was professional in nature.”
The spokesman for D.C.’s Attorney General said if charges were brought against individuals for failure to report a suspected case of child abuse, those people would face a maximum of six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Full statement from Capital City Public Charter School: “At Capital City, our top priority is to provide quality education to our students in a safe environment at all times. We are confident that we discharged our responsibilities properly in this matter. We have cooperated with law enforcement in all phases of its investigation and will continue to do so. Again, our students and families are our top priority and we will continue to deliver an excellent education to every student in a safe environment.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.