Fired KIPP co-founder denies allegations of misconduct

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Friday, February 23, 2018
KIPP co-founder fired after sexual abuse allegation
The allegations against Mike Feinberg have rocked the KIPP community.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The co-founder of KIPP, terminated after an investigation into allegations of misconduct, is denying those claims.

Mike Feinberg was accused in 2004 of sexual harassment. That investigation resulted in a financial settlement and a two-week suspension.

Then in spring 2017, sources confirm an investigation was launched into a new allegation of sex assault of a student. Feinberg was reportedly instructed he couldn't be around students or at the school unsupervised.

Feinberg hasn't been involved in day-to-day operations of the school in about six years, according to the sources. His current role consisted more of advocacy and fundraising.

Feinberg issued a statement of his own, through his attorney, denying the claims. "I am disappointed by the allegations described today and by the actions taken against me by the KIPP Board. I do not condone, nor have I ever condoned, or engaged in, misconduct of this kind. These allegations were thoroughly investigated by non-biased third parties who found no wrongdoing, and the action of the KIPP Board is very disheartening. My focus has always been to further the critical mission of KIPP, assist other schools in getting better, help all families succeed in life and to support the advancements of our community. I remain committed to everyone we serve, and will continue to serve."

ORIGINAL REPORT: KIPP co-founder fired amid allegations

KIPP co-founder terminated after allegations of misconduct.

KIPP says it investigated on its own and then hired a law firm to conduct a second investigation.

The organization says neither investigation was conclusive, but investigators did find credibility to the abuse claims.

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) is a non-profit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools serving elementary, middle, and high school students.

Full statement released from KIPP:

Dear KIPP Team and Family,

We are writing to you with difficult news. Today, we are announcing the termination of our co-founder, Mike Feinberg, as a result of findings from an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct.

Although the incidents investigated allegedly occurred many years ago, and Mr. Feinberg categorically denies any wrongdoing, credible evidence was found of conduct that is incompatible with the mission and values of KIPP.

We recognize this news will come as a shock to many in the KIPP Team and Family as we struggle to reconcile Mr. Feinberg's 24 years of significant contributions with the findings of this investigation.
The investigation was triggered last spring by an allegation of sexual abuse of a student by Mr. Feinberg in the late 1990s. The alleged conduct had not previously been reported to KIPP or the authorities.

Following the protocols we have established, KIPP immediately contacted Texas Child Protective Services.

KIPP Houston Public Schools then began its own investigation, which was carried out by KIPP Houston's external counsel. After receiving initial findings in the fall, KIPP Houston and the KIPP Foundation jointly hired WilmerHale, a law firm with significant experience investigating allegations of sexual misconduct, to conduct a thorough independent investigation.

While neither investigation conclusively confirmed the initial allegation, which referenced events two decades ago, the investigators found the allegation to have credibility. Mr. Feinberg denies this allegation.

In the course of its work, WilmerHale presented evidence of sexual harassment by Mr. Feinberg involving an adult KIPP alumna who was employed by KIPP Houston in 2004, which led to a financial settlement at the time. A second credible harassment claim against Mr. Feinberg, involving another adult alumna employed by KIPP Houston from the same time period, could not be corroborated.
At KIPP, leadership integrity must be without compromise. Each of us is expected to put the safety, care-and well-being of our students, alumni and staff above all else. In light of the nature of the allegations and the passage of time, critical facts about these events may never be conclusively determined. What is clear, however, is that, at a minimum, Mr. Feinberg put himself into situations where his conduct could be seriously misconstrued. We believe that Mr. Feinberg's actions were incompatible with the leadership qualities that are central to our mission.

As a result, the KIPP Foundation board and the KIPP Houston board have terminated Mr. Feinberg.

As we move forward from this decision, we want all members of our community to know that any incident of sexual misconduct, abuse or harassment is of grave concern to KIPP, and we offer unconditional support to anyone who comes forward. We encourage anyone who has experienced, or has knowledge of, any abuse or harassment to contact Bruce Berman or Danielle Conley, partners at WilmerHale. Any contact will be entirely confidential. Bruce can be reached at 202-663-6173 and Danielle can be reached at 202-663-6006. We are also thoroughly reviewing all of our organizational policies and practices to ensure that they protect every member of the KIPP community.

Every day, thousands of KIPPsters - families, students, alumni and staff - put their trust in KIPP to operate with the highest levels of responsibility, integrity and transparency. It is to this standard that we expect every member of our team to adhere and to which we hold ourselves accountable.