Principal responds to criticism over failure to notify parents of DCPS teacher's arrest
WASHINGTON (ABC7) —
On Wednesday, the recent arrest of a Shepherd Elementary School music teacher took center stage at a PTA meeting.
Rudy Gonzalez, 47, has been a teacher at Shepherd Elementary in Northwest Washington for seven years.
Now, he’s charged with second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault.
Police say the victim was not a student, but a woman who had hired Gonzalez to teach her English. The crime allegedly happened October 8 at his home in Wheaton, Maryland.
DC Public Schools say Gonzalez was placed on leave as soon as Montgomery County authorities notified them of his arrest.
But on Wednesday, parents expressed frustration that the school district did not immediately notify them or provide details of the allegations against Gonzalez.
In a letter Dated October 10, the school told parents that a short-term replacement had been assigned to provide coverage for the music program “while the permanent staff member is out of the building”.
It wasn’t until ABC7 News started asking questions that the school sent an updated letter to parents.
In that letter sent on October 16, the principal wrote that she was reaching out "regarding an important staff update” and notifying families of" an alleged incident” involving Gonzalez.
The letter also lets parents know that Gonzalez has been placed on leave. It doesn’t provide any specifics about his alleged crimes, which prosecutors have described as one of the most violent rape cases they’ve seen in years.
ABC7’s cameras were not allowed into Wednesday’s meeting between parents and school leaders.
But parents and community leaders inside that meeting shed some light on what happened.
“I think most of the parents, by right, are upset that they were not notified in sufficient time,” said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Stacey Lincoln, who attended the meeting. “The parents didn’t know. They don’t feel like they knew enough information as soon as they should have been informed about this.”
Several parents said they only learned Gonzalez was accused of rape through ABC7’s coverage.
We asked Shepherd Elementary Principal Jade Brawley why parents were not immediately notified.
“I want to be clear that this is a very delicate situation and there are children involved,” said Brawley. “This is just something that we wanted to be very sensitive to. Our community is grieving.”
Brawley said she first learned of Gonzalez’ arrest last Wednesday, October 8.
But she says she did not know details of the allegations against him until Tuesday, October 16.
“We were very thoughtful about the best way to communicate. It’s also a matter of when we received the information and so as we received it, that is when we provided additional information,” she said.
So why didn’t her letter sent on October 8 tell parents that a longtime teacher at the school had been arrested?
“Given the information that we had, we felt like that was the best form of communication,” she said.
Some parents strongly disagree, and said they feel the school district let them down.
Gonzalez remains on leave and is not currently working at the school. Two days after his arrest, he posted bond and was released from jail in Montgomery County.
If convicted of the crimes he’s now accused of, he could face up to 65 years in prison.
Watch an extended interview with Brawley below: