The principal of a Washington, D.C. high school is on paid leave this week after she was caught mocking a female student who reported being sexually assaulted at school.
Roosevelt High School principal Aqueelha James can be heard on the tape ridiculing the teen in front of colleagues and vowing to do what she could to ruin the teen’s credibility with police, according to The Washington Post.
The teen’s mother is now suing James and the D.C. government for $5 million in damages, accusing the principal of failing to adequately investigate the assault claims and defaming the high school freshman.
The student approached James with the accusations in July 2017, claiming she’d been sexually assaulted in the school bathroom by a male student who’d forced her into a stall, kissed her and slipped his hand under her dress. She said the boy even left a hickey on her neck.
The unnamed student and her mother met with James the following month to discuss what had happened. The headteacher initially seemed sympathetic to the young woman’s plight, but all that changed when the mother stepped out in the middle of the meeting to console her weeping daughter.
She inadvertently left her cell phone behind, however, with the recorder still rolling, according to the newspaper.
“‘I’m sick and tired of her and her mom,’ James says in the secret recording. “This is a bunch of bulls***.”
James proceeded to mock the teen’s clothing and described what would happen when she got D.C.’s Metropolitan Police involved.
“This … is going to compromise her,” James continues. “So I’m going to call MPD, I’m going to have a long, drawn-out email just so that I can embarrass her.”
On Wednesday, D.C. Public Schools said it had launched an internal investigation. Officials said James, who earns $147,000 annually, will remain on leave until the probe is complete.
“Please be assured that [the D.C. school system] takes the safety, security and privacy of all of our students seriously,” interim chancellor Amanda Alexander wrote in a letter to parents. “While this review is in progress, it is important for everyone that Roosevelt High School continue to be a loving and challenging place of learning where students feel safe.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser also reacted to the tapes, calling James’ language “outrageous.”
The mayor also called on school officials to review James’ behavior and noted she’d be reviewing “the whole of the investigation including DCPS, MPD and onto prosecutors. There’s a whole lot of things we want to make sure happened correctly. But what we know wasn’t correct was the language used, whether it was in private or in front of the student.”