A former Boone Elementary School student has entered his third week without setting foot on the campus, or any other for that matter, after suffering what family members allege to be physical abuse at the hands of an art teacher.
Bertina Herndon said her 7-year-old son entered her car on Oct. 17 and showed her his buttonless shirt. He then recounted how the art teacher, Emily Henry, lined him and two of his classmates along a wall, took each of them in a closet, and violently shook them.
Herndon said her son hit his head while defending himself against Henry as she ripped the buttons off of his shirt.
Since the incident, the young man and his family have been seeing a therapist, a situation Herndon said further reveals the gravity of her son’s situation.
“My son loved Boone. Since then, he doesn’t want to go to school and do art,” said Herndon, a Ward 8 mother of six.
“He wants to be around his parents all day. I didn’t have to worry about these types of questions. It has all been stressful for our family [because] our son has declined [to the point] where he’s not himself. He doesn’t even want to go to his room.”
For weeks, Herndon has attempted to gather information about Henry from administrators at Boone Elementary and D.C. Public Schools, all to no avail.
On Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia declined to execute a warrant for Henry. Days later, Herndon and mothers of the other involved students had been scheduled to receive documentation showing the charges issued and why the warrant couldn’t be executed.
A team, that includes the mothers and Pastor Tony Herndon, Jr. of Grace Nation Ministry, revealed intentions to file a class-action lawsuit against Henry, Kimberly Douglas, principal of Boone Elementary School, and DC Public Schools (DCPS).
Pastor Herndon, Bertina Herndon’s brother, said plaintiffs will include parents of at least five other students who can speak to Henry’s history of abuse.
“We are in contact with other parents who had similar situations with the same teacher,” Pastor Herndon said. “It’s unknown how far back it goes. We’re struggling to find information about the teacher. Everything is being protected.”
On Monday, DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said the allegations against Henry are still under investigation. The Informer confirmed that she is on leave, and the matter was referred to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Douglas did not respond to The Informer’s inquiry about the events of October 17.
Toward the end of the last academic year, Douglas took a leave of absence amid accusations from teachers and staff that she berated employees, sparked division, and ignored the concerns of teachers and parents.
Douglas replaced Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King, whose contract DCPS didn’t renew months shortly after the pandemic started in 2020.
Jackson-King, a widely popular principal credited with helping boost Boone’s academic standing, garnered a reputation as a staunch opponent of the Relay instructional model that she said compelled teachers to impose militaristic tactics on students.
Herndon’s family alleges that teachers at Boone are still implementing Relay. DCPS didn’t specify whether teachers at Boone still carry out that curriculum.
Terra Courtney likened the treatment her son recounted receiving to punishment that teachers doled out in the 1960s. She expressed disappointment that she heard about the incident from another parent, not the administrators at Boone.
Courtney further alleged that Boone administrators have targeted her son in recent weeks, even going as far as sending him home early for immunization compliance issues.
For this Ward 8 parent, her son’s Boone experience didn’t turn out the way she expected when she enrolled him with friends’ encouragement.
“My son repeats the same story over and over again. You can tell that he’s nervous,” Courtney said.
“He even said that he didn’t want to go to school. I heard a lot of good things about Boone from my friends. I didn’t know they would have a lack of sympathy.”