Two students accuse same D.C. high school teacher of sexual abuse nine years apart

"He thought I was this brilliant, talented writer, and I thought the world of him,” said one of the women.

A former teacher at the acclaimed Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. is said to have groomed some of his underage female students for sexual relationships — though he has never been charged with a crime. 

Mark Williams was head of the school’s Literary Media and Communications Department before he resigned in January 2019 while under investigation following complaints to the school and police, in 2004 and 2018, about his misconduct, NBC 4 Washington reports.

A News4 I-Team investigation revealed his connection to two women who attended the school nearly a decade apart and who both allege they were sexually abused by him. 

The women shared their stories for the first time with the News4 I-Team and describe similar allegations against Williams.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. / YouTube Screenshot

“It ruins your whole life, it ruins it,” said the first woman, 34, who graduated in 2005. “I really trusted the people who worked there a lot, and it upsets me that nothing about this was really taken seriously.”

“There’s like a certain level of shame that will keep silence going on for a very long time,” said the second woman, 25, who graduated in 2014. She was unaware of the allegations from the other woman until the I-Team interview.

“The part of me that blamed myself for what had happened was lessened because I realized that he had a predatory pattern,” she said.

The I-Team interviewed several former students who said Williams was beloved on campus. 

His sexual relationship with the first woman began when she was a teenager, and she said “there were late-night phone calls and texts almost every night,” the outlet writes. 

“He thought I was this brilliant, talented writer, and I thought the world of him,” she said. 

Their intimacy began when Williams asked her to “write more and more personal, intimate details about my life,” and he ultimately shared with her his own erotic writings. 

“Describing in very graphic detail himself and another woman … and he really wanted to know what I thought about them,” she recalled. 

Things turned sexual after that, she says. The student and Williams often had sex in his car and at a motel. 

According to the report, the woman’s mother once overheard inappropriate phone conversations between Williams, a married man with children, and the then-teen. She reported it to the principal. 

In 2004, that principal reported Williams to D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and the school district, which placed him on administrative leave. The first woman told the I-Team she did not tell anyone that Williams was under investigation for their illicit relationship. 

“I couldn’t live with myself if I would ruin his life, you know, the man I thought I was in love with,” she said. “He asked me to delete every email he had ever sent me. He asked me to call him from pay phones only.”

The woman would go on to deny the relationship. Williams returned to the school and they continued sleeping with each other well into her college years, according to the report. Their affair ended in 2008.

The woman said she never considered coming forward until she realized there was nothing particularly special about her relationship with Williams and that there could be other former students with similar experiences.

“He invited me to take a playwriting class with him,” the second woman told the I-Team. She, too, was encouraged by Williams to write about intimate details of her life, and he did the same. 

Much like the first woman, their sexual encounters often occurred in his car or in a motel room. She said the relationship continued for about two years. When she told her ex-boyfriend from high school about it, he reported the alleged abuse in an email titled ‘Mark Williams is a Rapist and Predator’ that he sent to “100 school leaders, teachers and former students,” the outlet writes.

“I was not at the point where I felt like I could do it for myself. So, while I really did not appreciate how it was done at the time, I think ultimately it was the right thing to do,” she said.

In 2018, following the mass email, Williams was once again placed on administrative leave and reported to the school district and police for investigation. The email did not mention the woman’s name, so she was never contacted by police or questioned, and it appears the accusations about Williams in the email were not properly investigated.

Williams resigned in January 2019 and has never been charged with any crime.  

“I feel like they didn’t try very hard,” said the woman of law enforcement’s handling of the case. “Does that mean it ends because you can’t [find me] … there’s still a victim to be found.”

When the ex-boyfriend, who also considered Williams a mentor, confronted him directly via email, Williams reportedly responded, “I have cancer. Please leave me be.”

The first woman is now suing the school and the school district for violating Title IX, “a federal education law which requires a full investigation and protections for victims,” the outlet writes. 

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