Equity & Diversity

D.C. Schools Chief Asks Forgiveness for Violating Policy He Put in Place

By Corey Mitchell — February 16, 2018 2 min read
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It was one of the first issues that Antwan Wilson dealt with as District of Columbia schools chancellor: well-connected public officials getting special treatment for their kids in school enrollment.

Wilson helped draft a policy to address the problem. Then he broke that policy, bypassing district protocol to secure a spot in a coveted high school for his own child.

As reported by the Washington Post and other news organizations, Wilson reached out to D.C. Deputy Mayor of Education Jennifer Niles for help in transferring the child to an out-of-boundary school, and Niles arranged for the transfer.

Niles will resign from her post at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request. Bowser is referring the matter to the Board of Ethics and Government and the D.C. inspector general.

“My decision was wrong and I take full responsibility for my mistake,” Wilson wrote in a letter to district parents and employees Friday. “While I understand that many of you will be angered and disappointed by my actions, I’m here today to apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”

Wilson’s daughter will be moved from the out-of-boundary school, Wilson High, that she transferred to. She will now attend her neighborhood school, Dunbar High.

Located in a predominately affluent neighborhood, Wilson High draws high-achieving students from across the city.

Dunbar has some of the worst test scores in the district and the school’s principal was placed on administrative leave earlier this year as officials investigate his role in the school district’s ongoing graduation rate scandal.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General are investigating the district’s high school graduation practices.

A report from the Office of the State Superintendent, requested by Bowser and Wilson, found that teachers felt pressure from school administrators to find ways to graduate students who did not come close to meeting the requirements for earning a diploma.

It’s just the latest in a string of questionable practices in the 50,000-student district.

Last spring, the D.C. inspector general found that Wilson’s predecessor, former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, helped high-ranking officials bypass the district’s lottery system to land their children spots in highly regarded schools.

In response, Wilson unveiled a policy last summer that was designed to “limit any possibility of favoritism or improper use of public office for private gain, or even the appearance of favoritism.”

Now, less than a year later, he’s apologizing for violating that very policy.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Niles, left, the-then deputy mayor for education in the District of Columbia, incoming schools chancellor Antwan Wilson, and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser arrive for a news conference at Eastern High School in Washington on November 2016 to announce Wilson in his new role. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.