Ashley Carter
Ashley Carter Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Now we know why Ashley Carter, the Trump-supporting at-large candidate for the D.C. State Board of Education who managed a surprising victory in November, was so squirrely about her campaign literature. 

After reading last week’s story about how Carter, a white Republican, managed to secure sizable margins in the mostly black wards east of the river, parents at Lee Montessori Public Charter School contacted LL to say Carter invaded their children’s privacy. They say Carter incorporated unauthorized photos of herself interacting with their kids into her campaign materials and social media accounts.

Lee Grigsby, of Northeast, says he learned about the photographs from the school, which had hosted a regular event for educators and education advocates last spring known as First Friday. “My daughter was front and center on Carter’s campaign Facebook page,” Grigsby says. “It makes it look like a young Caucasian woman teaching black elementary school children. We tried to find out how this happened and we got no communication from the campaign. It’s a serious misstep for an educator, but aside from that, had she asked in advance we would’ve considered it. It was just upsetting at first. Now it seems egregious.” 

Vincenza Kamwendo, a Ward 4 resident, tells LL that the only waiver she signed was for her 8-year-old daughter to participate in the event and that the school told her photographers were not authorized to attend. Worse for Kamwendo is that the photographs seem as if Carter was instructing her child, when in fact the child was showing the candidate her math homework. (Carter used the photographs in campaign literature and in touting her volunteer efforts on Facebook as part of National Literacy Day.) 

“She’s not teaching me,” Kamwendo’s daughter told her when she saw her own image alongside Carter, who is pictured standing over the young student. “I wrote to the Carter campaign and said, ‘I don’t know you and don’t know what you stand for, but you used a photo of my child without my consent,’” says Kamwendo, who also complained to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability and the D.C. Board of Elections. After she and other parents whose children appeared in Carter’s campaign material began complaining on Facebook and Twitter, the campaign blocked them, she says. 

D.C. oversight agencies have offered no recourse, so now the parents just want an apology.  In a statement, Carter says she has not seen any formal complaints and believes her campaign materials complied with D.C. election laws. 

Sponsors of the event say that they ordinarily follow the host school’s photography policy and that  they made a direct apology to the parents when the matter came to their attention. CityBridge Foundation, one of the event sponsors, issued a statement indicating that it will implement its own policy in the future independent of school policy. “We are confident that this new policy, clearly communicated before each tour, will avoid unauthorized photo use in the future,” the foundation says in a statement.