Judge throws out Mike Feinberg’s defamation suit against KIPP, the charter network he co-founded

KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg’s defamation lawsuit against the charter network was curtly dismissed Monday by a Houston-area judge.

In a one-page decision, District Court Judge Kristen Brauchle Hawkins did not offer a rationale for her decision, stating, “The court finds that the Motion [to dismiss] has merit and should be granted.”

KIPP had argued that the suit, filed in August, is baseless and that it had simply provided accurate information to the public in the wake of Feinberg’s high-profile firing in 2018.

“I am disappointed by the court’s decision and plan to appeal,” Feinberg said in an email. “I am committed to clearing my name and restoring my professional reputation.”

Feinberg was fired from KIPP in 2018 over an allegation of sexual abuse and two claims of sexual harassment. He has denied the claims, and he subsequently sued KIPP for defamation and contested an effort by the state of Texas to strip him of his teaching license. Feinberg has maintained some connections within the charter school world and started his own organization with the goal of helping to launch new charters

KIPP’s response to Feinberg’s lawsuit provided more detail on the allegations that led to his dismissal: One former student said that he had sexually assaulted her as a child under the guise of a medical exam. Another alumna and ex-KIPP employee alleged that he offered her money in exchange for sex.

The first allegation was at issue in the state’s effort to strip Feinberg of his educator certification during a February hearing in Austin. At the hearing, the former student said that Feinberg twice required her to undress for a supposed “yearly check up.” In one case, she said, he inserted a Q-tip into her vagina. “I felt confused,” she said at the hearing. “I’m like, I don’t think this is right.”

She said she told her mother, who confirmed this during the hearing. “I was in very bad shape. I started crying with her,” the mother testified through a Spanish translator. “I wanted to say something but my daughter didn’t let me. We needed to talk to my husband but we were scared of him because he was very strict and tough with her and with me.”

Feinberg denied the allegation. “That did not happen … absolutely not,” he said during the hearing. He called several witnesses who disputed the former student’s description of his office from the time. Feinberg and his lawyer also suggested that the former student may have been motivated by KIPP’s decision to expel her brother. “His family was extremely upset at the way we were handling that,” Feinberg said.

The Texas State Board for Educator Certification has yet to decide whether to revoke Feinberg’s teaching license.