Covington Report - The Branson School

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Report to The Board of Trustees of The Branson School

Nancy Kestenbaum & Clara Shin Covington & Burling LLP April 2019

The content of this report is sensitive, personal, and graphic. Reader discretion is advised.

In the spring of 2018, three graduates of The Branson School each informed Head of School Chris Mazzola that their soccer coach had sexually abused them while they were Branson students in the 1970s. In response to these reports, Branson’s Board of Trustees retained Nancy Kestenbaum and Clara Shin, partners at Covington & Burling LLP, to undertake an independent investigation of any sexual misconduct by Branson faculty and staff with Branson students. On June 12, 2018, Branson sent a letter to its community about Covington’s investigation and encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact us through a hotline phone number or email address. Since then, we have spoken with nearly 100 people, some of whom contacted us and others whom we contacted. We did not reach out to graduates who reportedly experienced sexual misconduct but did not contact us. We have also reviewed over 2,000 documents. We heard directly from graduates from the 1970s to the 2010s about specific instances of sexual misconduct. We use the term “sexual misconduct” to encompass a range of acts, including sexual intercourse, inappropriate touching, and kissing, by Branson faculty, staff, and volunteers (collectively, “educators”) with Branson students. We recognize that other terms, like “rape,” “sexual abuse,” and “sexual harassment,” may also be appropriate to describe certain acts discussed below. Based on the evidence received, we find that four former Branson educators engaged in sexual misconduct with Branson students: in chronological order, Rothwell “Rusty” Taylor, Leslie “Les” Carroll, Richard “Rich” Manoogian, and Alistair Grant. We received information indicating that additional Branson educators engaged in sexual misconduct with Branson students, and those reports are also described below. We did not receive any information about current Branson students or reports that current Branson educators had engaged in sexual misconduct with students. Our investigation was independent. Covington has not previously represented Branson, and the Covington attorneys working on the investigation have no direct ties with the school. Branson gave us complete autonomy to conduct our investigation, and it did not influence our findings. We appreciate the cooperation and support Branson and its Board of Trustees provided to our investigation. The school was extremely responsive to our information requests and helpful in connecting us with current and former Branson educators. In investigating past misconduct and deciding to make our report public, Branson’s Board of Trustees and Head of School have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring the health and safety of Branson graduates and students. We wish to thank the members of the Branson community who spoke with us, particularly those graduates who made the difficult and courageous decision to participate in our investigation and describe the sexual misconduct they

experienced as students. We hope that this report will be of value to them and to the broader Branson community. Branson’s Policies and Culture Beginning in the 1977-78 school year, Branson included in its handbooks a policy prohibiting “verbal or physical abuse of individuals.” In the 1993-94 school year, Branson explicitly prohibited sexual harassment, defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, made by someone from or in the work or educational setting.” The policy also stated that “[a]ny expression of sexual interest between adults and students, regardless of reciprocity, is considered inappropriate and shall be subject to discipline,” and it outlined employees’ obligations to report sexual harassment. Between 1994 and 2018, Branson continued to update its policies prohibiting sexual harassment. In 2018, Branson issued a Code of Conduct, which addresses employee interactions with “current students, applicants for admission, and any former students under the age of 21.” The Code of Conduct requires adults in the Branson community “to maintain appropriate boundaries between themselves and students to ensure that they avoid even the perception of inappropriate conduct.” Among other things, the Code of Conduct prohibits “communications to students of a personal nature,” “unnecessary physical contact with a student,” “[i]ntentionally being alone with a student off campus without parent and supervisor knowledge or permission,” and “driv[ing] alone with a student except in emergency situations.” Employees must report to the Head of School, as soon as possible, any “inappropriate [behavior] between an adult employee and a student.” In compliance with a state law enacted the prior year governing the distribution and publication of employee codes of conduct, Branson posted the Code of Conduct on its website. Branson educators and graduates alike described a close and tight-knit community, in which teachers and students interacted with each other outside the classroom. One graduate echoed the comments of many in praising this “wonderful culture.” Some with whom we spoke, however, noted that when they were at Branson the close relationships between educators and students resulted in blurred boundaries, and they also described an environment in which some students may not have felt comfortable reporting concerns about inappropriate conduct. Substantiated Reports of Sexual Misconduct In evaluating whether to name individuals accused of sexual misconduct, we weighed a number of factors, including whether the reports of sexual misconduct were corroborated, the strength of the evidence received, the existence of contemporaneous documentation, and the number of reports made about any particular individual. Where appropriate, we also name senior administrators who


learned during their tenure at Branson about possible sexual misconduct involving Branson educators and students. Language in quotation marks is verbatim from interviews, unless attributed to another source. A.

Rusty Taylor

Rusty Taylor worked at Branson from 1972 to 1979, when he was in his latetwenties to mid-thirties. Taylor served as the Director of Athletics and a soccer coach. Throughout his career, Taylor has received numerous accolades, including induction into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame in 2016. One witness described Taylor as a “powerful sports figure.” After leaving Branson, Taylor worked at other independent schools in Northern California. Four Branson graduates told us that Taylor engaged in sexual misconduct with them while they were students; some of this conduct overlapped in time. Three of those graduates, Students 1, 2, and 3, described their experiences with Taylor to Mazzola in May 2018, and Mazzola reported this information to the police. A fifth graduate described sexual contact with Taylor in her first year of college. A number of graduates and a former administrator heard from a sixth graduate that Taylor was sexually involved with her while she was at Branson. We wrote to Taylor and asked to speak with him. We informed Taylor that we had received reports that he had “engaged in sexual misconduct with one or more [Branson] students.” Through his attorney, Taylor declined our request. Student 1 Student 1 graduated from Branson in the 1970s. She played on the soccer team and Taylor was her coach. Student 1 said that in her sophomore year, when she was 14 years old and after her braces had come off, Taylor stopped her as she was leaving the cafeteria to tell her that she looked “fantastic.” She reported that later in the year, when she was 15 years old, Taylor “cornered” her at school, pinned her against the wall, and kissed her. Student 1 stated that Taylor continued to kiss and touch her, including her breasts and buttocks, into her junior year. Student 1 told us that in December of that year, Taylor invited her to his home. Student 1 described how, once there, Taylor kissed her and indicated that he wanted to go into the bedroom. Student 1 remembers saying to Taylor that she did not want to go any further, but that he forced her into sexual intercourse and “rape[d]” her. Student 1 said that a few nights later, in his car, Taylor took out his penis and told her to put her mouth on it, which she did. Student 1 recalled that Taylor stopped pursuing her towards the end of her junior year when she began dating another student. Student 1 later told a number of alumni about Taylor’s conduct. One graduate told us that she was at a dinner about ten years ago during which 3

Students 1 and 3 discussed what Taylor had done to them while they were at Branson. Another graduate who attended the same dinner said that Student 1 referenced an “experience” with Taylor. A third graduate stated that about two or three years ago, Student 1 told him that Taylor and Student 1 had kissed and made out in the girls’ locker room while she was a student, and said that “‘he raped me.’” Student 1 told us that she discussed Taylor with Student 3 last year, and that it was “emotional for both of us to realize we suffered from the same thing.” Student 2 Student 2 graduated from Branson in the 1970s. She too played on the soccer team coached by Taylor. Student 2 told us that Taylor was close to her family and that he joined them for dinners. Student 2 recalled that starting in the fall of her junior year, when she was 16 years old, Taylor complimented her looks and asked her out. Student 2 said that the two went to dinner and, in his car, Taylor forcibly kissed her. Student 2 told us that later, during soccer season, she was in or near the locker room when Taylor again forcibly kissed her and put her hands down his pants to feel his erect penis. Student 2 said that Taylor stopped pursuing her after she pretended to have a boyfriend. A classmate of Student 2 told us that she knew while they were at Branson that “something bad was happening to [Student 2].” She recalled that Student 2 quit the soccer team and withdrew socially. That classmate said that Student 2 told her more recently about Taylor’s misconduct and was “very graphic with what happened with Rusty.” Another graduate recounted Student 2 saying “something about being careful about Rusty Taylor,” while they were at Branson, which she understood as referring to “predatorial behavior.” Three additional graduates, including Student 3, recalled observing Taylor and Student 2 spending time together; one of these graduates described seeing Taylor with Student 2 outside of soccer practice and games, and hearing Taylor offer Student 2 rides home. Four graduates told us that, in the last few years, Student 2 confided in them about Taylor’s conduct. One of those graduates said that in 2015, Student 2 “shared her experience of sexual abuse by Taylor,” and that, in 2018, Student 2 “shared in more detail her experience at [Branson] and the sexual abuse by Taylor.” Another of those graduates reported that, about two years ago, Student 2 told him that Taylor had forced her to touch his penis, that Taylor repeatedly tried and succeeded in kissing her even though she did not kiss him back, and that she stopped playing soccer to avoid Taylor. The other two graduates told us that about a year ago, Student 2 described Taylor’s conduct to them. Student 3 Student 3 graduated from Branson in the 1970s, and was also a member of the soccer team coached by Taylor. In her sophomore year, when she was 15 years


old, Student 3 said that Taylor started touching her calves while taping her ankles for soccer practice. Student 3 also told us that, by the end of her junior year, Taylor had kissed her and she had spent a lot of time with Taylor, including at his home where he instructed her on how to perform oral sex, had her perform oral sex on him, and told her that it would “prove to be beneficial in the long run.” Student 3 said that their sexual encounters continued into the summer after her junior year. Seven graduates told us that, when they were students at Branson, they observed Taylor and Student 3 together in ways that, in the words of some of these graduates, seemed “wrong” and “closer than most relationships, certainly between teachers and students.” These graduates’ observations included Student 3 “always” getting rides from Taylor, and Taylor and Student 3 spending time together outside of school and at night, including at social parties, “in a way that felt inappropriate.” After graduation, Student 3 confided in many people about Taylor’s sexual misconduct. One graduate said that in 1989 or 1990, Student 3 told her about Taylor’s conduct, which that graduate described as “something extraordinarily awful and abusive.” Another graduate recalled that, in 2003, Student 3 shared specific details about Taylor’s conduct, including that Taylor provided instructions on “the best way to do oral sex on him.” As discussed above, one graduate told us that she was at a dinner about ten years ago during which Students 1 and 3 discussed what Taylor had done to them while they were at Branson. Five additional graduates and a current faculty member told us that Student 3 had more recently confided in them about Taylor’s conduct. Student 3 said that, before she spoke with Mazzola in May 2018, she reported Taylor to the Marin County District Attorney’s Office and that that Office referred her to the Sausalito Police Department, where she filed a complaint against Taylor. Students 4 and 5 Student 4 graduated from Branson in the 1970s. Student 4 reported that, while she was a sophomore, she and Taylor had sexual intercourse in his home and that Taylor indicated to her during sex that it would “reflect[] badly” on Student 4 if she told anyone. Student 5, another 1970s Branson graduate who played on the soccer team coached by Taylor, reported an experience with Taylor during the winter break of her first year of college. Student 5 stated that Taylor, when driving her home from a party in San Francisco, took her to a residence he was staying at, kissed her, and put his hands down her pants. Student 5 said that she told him to “get that out of there,” and he did so. Student 6 Three graduates told us that at an alumni event in 2005, Student 6 disclosed to them and others that she and Taylor had sexual intercourse while she attended Branson. One of those graduates stated, “I remember her saying, ‘He raped me.’” 5

All three of those graduates and a fourth who also attended the event said that Student 6 was visibly upset when discussing Taylor. Shortly after the alumni event, one of those graduates told her mother about Student 6’s statements. We spoke with that graduate’s mother, who confirmed her daughter’s account. We also reviewed emails sent by these graduates shortly after the alumni event, and they are consistent with what the graduates told us about that event. *



We could not find evidence concerning the circumstances of Taylor’s departure from Branson, and many faculty and administrators who worked at the school during Taylor’s tenure in the 1970s are deceased. We did not hear about any reports made to the school, while Taylor worked at Branson, about his physical misconduct. We heard, however, from many graduates that it was understood among the student body, while Taylor was at Branson, that he was sexually involved with Branson students. There are also indications that some Branson faculty and administrators were aware at the time that Taylor’s conduct with students was, at a minimum, inappropriate. Students 1 and 3 each specifically recalled that a particular former history teacher and coach was at Taylor’s home on at least one of their visits. We spoke with that former teacher and he said that he spent time at Taylor’s home, but does not recall either way if any female students were present. We also spoke with Basil Hamblin, Dean of Students in the 1970s, who said that he hired Taylor based on Taylor’s coaching success. Hamblin described Taylor’s behavior with female students as “flirty,” and said he heard Taylor making “inappropriate,” “usually sexual” jokes and commenting on students’ appearances such as “how cute they were.” We reviewed evidence indicating that Hamblin received complaints about Taylor’s conduct, while they were both at Branson; Hamblin departed Branson in the late 1970s. A graduate sent an email to classmates in May 2005, which stated that Hamblin, during a conversation he had with the graduate that same day, “did say that two separate families (of lower classwomen) met with him while he was there about possible sexual harassment issues with Rusty. Nobody filed a lawsuit or anything—they simply banned Rusty from coming to their homes.” Hamblin told us that he did not remember Taylor being banned from students’ homes, but did recall a complaint made by a Branson student’s parents that Taylor had made a “flirty” comment to their daughter. Hamblin said that Taylor did not deny making the comment but that Hamblin “defended” him because he (Hamblin) considered Taylor to be “harmless.” Hamblin said he did not hear about any physical sexual misconduct by Taylor until after Hamblin had left Branson. Hamblin told us that Student 6 shared with him, at the 2005 alumni event described above, her experiences with Taylor.


Taylor continued to have a presence at Branson up until the school’s announcement of our investigation, including through a current senior administrator. After joining Branson’s administration in 2014, the administrator recommended that Taylor be inducted into the Branson Athletic Hall of Fame and, as recently as spring 2018, the administrator and Taylor attended a Branson soccer game together. The administrator took those steps after having heard numerous accounts of Taylor’s sexual misconduct with Branson students, and despite believing those accounts to be true. The administrator told us that Taylor had recruited him to Branson as a student, coached him in soccer, and was an important mentor to him. The administrator told us that shortly after graduating from Branson, he heard about Taylor and Student 3, prompting him to ask Taylor over the years about his relationships with students. According to the administrator, Taylor denied any misconduct. The administrator also said that, beginning approximately 20 years ago, he heard directly from Student 2 about her experiences with Taylor, including Taylor telling Student 2 during her senior year that he would help her get into a particular college if she had sex with him. The administrator told us that he had also learned from Hamblin that Student 6 had “broken down” about Taylor at the 2005 alumni event. We have been told that several graduates have expressed concerns about the administrator’s relationship with Taylor; in particular, we understand that one graduate said that she lost “total confidence in the school” after the administrator nominated Taylor to the Branson Athletic Hall of Fame, and that she had worried about reporting Taylor’s abuse to Branson because of the administrator’s close relationship with Taylor. B.

Les Carroll

Les Carroll was at Branson from approximately 1985 to 1989, and served as the Director of Athletics and coached the soccer and basketball teams. Public records indicate that Carroll was in his late twenties to early thirties during that time. According to school records, Branson terminated Carroll because of his “association with” Student 7. We wrote to Carroll and asked to speak with him. We informed Carroll that we had received reports that he “engaged in sexual misconduct with a [Branson] student.” Carroll did not respond to our request. Student 7 also did not contact us, but 16 people, including several former administrators, provided information about Carroll and Student 7. Student 7 One graduate told us that, while he and Student 7 were students, he saw Carroll and Student 7 holding hands while walking together on school grounds. A parent of a graduate stated that she observed Student 7 sitting on Carroll’s lap in


the gym office. Another graduate said that it was “pretty well known within the student body” that Carroll and Student 7 were “secretly dating.” Branson educators were aware of at least some of Carroll’s interactions with Student 7 while she was at Branson. A current faculty member said that Carroll and Student 7 “spent a lot of time together” and that they had “a close relationship.” Tom Hudnut, Head of School for a period of time while Student 7 was at Branson, told us that he heard that Carroll and Student 7 “were keen on each other.” Hudnut said that he did not recall if he had discussed that relationship with anyone. Hudnut told us he knew Student 7’s parents well and “figured if [Carroll and Student 7] had affection, [Student 7’s parents] would say something to me.” Three administrators told us that, while Student 7 was at Branson, they spoke with Carroll about his relationship with her. Coreen Hester, Branson’s Interim Head of School during Student 7’s junior year, said that she questioned Carroll after hearing that he was spending time alone with Student 7 in his office. Hester recounted telling Carroll that “it was not appropriate,” and Carroll saying that there was “nothing going on.” Rick Fitzgerald, Hester’s successor as Head of School, told us that Hester and others alerted him the following school year to a “situation” with Carroll. Fitzgerald recalled questioning Carroll on multiple occasions, and that Carroll “aggressively” denied any inappropriate conduct. Assistant Head of School Rebecca Upham reported that, toward the end of Student 7’s senior year, she heard that Carroll was driving Student 7 home and was “spending too much time with her.” Upham said that she spoke with Carroll and he said that “‘nothing is going on.’” Fitzgerald and Upham each told us that, shortly after Student 7’s graduation, they learned that Carroll and Student 7 were intending to live together. Fitzgerald said that Student 7’s mother informed him of this plan and she was upset about it. Public records indicate that Carroll and Student 7 had the same residential address beginning about eight months after her graduation. Fitzgerald and Upham recalled confronting Carroll about his involvement with Student 7. According to Fitzgerald, Carroll responded by saying that there was nothing Fitzgerald could do, because he did not “‘catch’” Carroll before Student 7’s graduation. Upham said that Carroll denied that anything improper had happened before graduation. Upham told us that she did not find his denial to be credible, given the close proximity between graduation and Student 7’s announcement that she was moving in with Carroll. Fitzgerald and Upham said that they terminated Carroll after speaking with him. The school subsequently made written findings, including that: (1) Fitzgerald “heard repeated rumors that Mr. Carroll and [Student 7] were having a romantic relationship”; (2) “[o]n several occasions,” Fitzgerald had “confronted Mr. Carroll on this issue and he denied the accusations”; (3) Carroll had made a comment about “[Student 7]’s anatomy” to another faculty member and “boasted that he would marry her someday”; (4) Carroll and Student 7 “were holding hands on one occasion


in the school auditorium”; (5) “a student’s parent observed [Student 7] and Mr. Carroll having a candlelight dinner”; and (6) Fitzgerald had heard a report that Carroll and Student 7 “were seen together at a distant ski resort.” Carroll was not a U.S. citizen while he was at Branson. According to school records, Branson offered to assist Carroll in his application for permanent residency, to extend Carroll’s employment by several months (limited to “off-campus advice”), and to make a salary payment of about $10,000 if he agreed not to dispute his termination. Carroll requested that the school also help him extend his work visa. We have not been able to determine whether Branson assisted Carroll with his residency status or work visa, or paid him any additional salary. A former administrator said that when the school received calls requesting references for Carroll, she was instructed to state only his dates of employment. C.

Rich Manoogian

Rich Manoogian graduated from Branson in 1984. Manoogian returned to Branson about a year later to assist the boys’ varsity basketball team on an unpaid basis. Branson did not locate any school records relating to Manoogian’s coaching tenure, but he is identified in various ways in Branson’s 1986 to 1989 and 1991 to 1992 yearbooks, including as “manager,” “coach,” and “assistant coach.” We wrote to Manoogian and asked to speak with him, informing him that we had received reports that he had “engaged in sexual misconduct with one or more [Branson] students.” Through his attorney, Manoogian declined to speak with us. Student 8 Student 8, who graduated from Branson in the 1990s, informed us about sexual misconduct by Manoogian while she was a student. Student 8 told us that, during her sophomore year, when she was 15, Manoogian kissed her “out of [the] blue” in a parking lot by the gym. Manoogian was in his early twenties at that time. Manoogian began driving Student 8 home and stopping at his residence on the way. Student 8 said that their physical contacts progressed to “kisses, heavy making out and touching,” and “oral sex,” primarily in Manoogian’s car or home, and continued on and off through Student 8’s junior and senior years. Student 8 told us about an incident when some basketball players saw Manoogian and her kissing in the gym office. Two former basketball players likewise recalled hearing about Manoogian and Student 8 kissing in the gym office immediately afterwards from their teammates who had witnessed it. One of those graduates, Graduate 1, said that he heard a commotion outside the gym office and saw boys peering in through closed venetian blinds. Graduate 1 said that his teammates exclaimed, “‘I can’t believe it,’” “‘Rich was kissing [Student 8] in the office,’” and “‘Holy shit—Rich is like making out with [Student 8].’” Graduate 2 said that he saw Student 8 in the gym office, and then saw Manoogian go in and pull the 9

blinds down. Graduate 2 told us that “registered” with him because “no one lets the blinds down” and he “knew it wasn’t cool.” Graduate 2 described his teammate saying, “‘Wow, you won’t believe this’” and that he had seen “‘Manoogian kissing [Student 8].’” Student 8 told us that while she was a student, a current Branson faculty member, who was also the head coach of the boys’ varsity basketball team at the time, was aware of Manoogian’s conduct. Student 8 described her “long discussions” with the coach about Manoogian, during which he expressed concern that he (the coach) “would lose his job.” Student 8 said that the coach instructed her and Manoogian to stop the conduct. According to Student 8, the coach was the only Branson educator who knew about her involvement with Manoogian while she attended Branson. Graduate 1 recalled Student 8 telling him a few years ago that, while she was at Branson, the coach had told Manoogian to “knock it off and quit bothering” her. We met with the coach and asked him whether he was aware of any sexual misconduct by adults at Branson, including any “part-time coaches” or “volunteers.” The coach did not identify Manoogian the first two times we asked this question, despite eventually acknowledging that he had been involved in removing Manoogian as a coach from Branson as a result of Manoogian’s misconduct. It was not until we asked the coach about Manoogian specifically by name that the coach immediately responded, “Yes,” and then said, “Here we go.” The coach stated that Student 8 called him during her first year of college, and that he believes Student 8 told him that Manoogian had “kissed her” and “made physical moves on her” when she was at Branson. The coach also said that Student 8 “had been going up to [Manoogian’s] house at some point in her senior year.” The coach did not recall informing anyone at Branson about this conversation. The coach sent us an email after our meeting, which stated in part as follows: I did not remember the allegation about Rich Manoogian (from over 25 years ago) until I was asked about this in the interview. . . . Even looking back at this now, I had no knowledge, or even suspicion, of anything improper between Rich and [Student 8] until [Student 8] called me when she was in college (as I said, I believe this was during the spring of her freshman year of college). . . . When I confronted Rich about what [Student 8] had told me, he denied it. Nevertheless, Rich was removed as a coach at Branson and never coached with me or at Branson again. Student 8 reported Manoogian’s conduct to others at Branson in her first year of college. Student 8 and her father described meeting with Assistant Head of School Susan Clark to inform her about Manoogian’s misconduct. We reviewed


Student 8’s father’s datebook from that year, and it reflects an appointment with Clark on April 24: “[Student 8] talks to Susan.” Student 8, but not her father, recalled that Head of School Rick Fitzgerald also participated in that meeting. Clark stated that she did not meet with Student 8 and her father about Manoogian, but she believes Fitzgerald dealt with the situation. Clark told us that she learned, after Student 8 had graduated from Branson, that Manoogian had been “involved” with Student 8, and that Manoogian was then “banned from the basketball team.” Fitzgerald did not specifically remember meeting with Student 8 and her father, but said that he had a “vague memor[y]” of instructing the coach “to tell Rich he couldn’t coach anymore.” The coach told us that he recalls Fitzgerald’s instruction and relaying the message to Manoogian. The coach believes that Manoogian left Branson at that time. Student 8 stated that, after she reported Manoogian’s conduct to Branson, he left a message on her answering machine filled with “crazy laughter” and asking, “‘Did I sodomize you?’” Student 8 told us that she played the message for her parents. Student 8’s father recalled two “taunting” messages from Manoogian, and his datebook from that year has a June 27 entry stating “Rich,” “Obscene Phone Call from R,” and a July 21 entry stating “Rich 10:09.” Student 8 and her father told us that, after reporting Manoogian to Branson, she filed a report with the Ross Police Department. In our interview, the coach said that shortly after his call with Student 8 about Manoogian, the Ross Police Department contacted him. The Ross Police Department informed us that any records of Student 8’s report would have been purged pursuant to its document retention policy. Student 8 said that in her first year of college she also discussed Manoogian with a Branson classmate and the classmate’s mother. The classmate remembers Student 8 saying that she and Manoogian had interactions while she was at Branson that involved kissing, and the classmate’s mother recalled a separate conversation with Student 8 about “inappropriate touching” by a Branson coach. Manoogian declined to speak with us, but his attorney agreed to answer some of our questions. According to Manoogian’s attorney, Manoogian assisted the boys’ basketball team in an unpaid position on two separate occasions with an intervening period of two or three years. Manoogian’s attorney stated that an “issue” arose during Manoogian’s first tenure, that Fitzgerald and Clark discussed this issue with him, and that the school did not make any negative findings. Manoogian’s attorney said that Manoogian’s subsequent departure from Branson was voluntary. Manoogian’s attorney said that Manoogian later returned to Branson, and then left again because the school wanted to replace him on the boys’ basketball team with a Branson teacher and asked him to take over the girls’ team instead. This account conflicts with the statements of Clark, Fitzgerald, and the


coach. The coach also said that there was “no way” that the school would have asked Manoogian to coach the girls’ team. D.

Alistair Grant

Alistair Grant was a Branson college counselor from May 2011 to June 2013, and he remained affiliated with Branson as a consultant until December 2013. Grant was in his mid-thirties at the time. Two Branson graduates contacted us and each described sexual and emotional misconduct by Grant. We spoke with more than 25 additional people about Grant. A number of Branson community members said that Grant was “very helpful” in the college placement process and especially dedicated to his students. Others described Grant as having a “cult of personality” and someone who needed “a lot of adulation.” One graduate said that Grant had “wrapped everyone around his finger” and convinced parents “there was no way he was a bad guy.” Current and former faculty and administrators, as well as graduates, said that Grant developed unusually close relationships with students. One graduate said that Grant’s college counseling sessions were “like therapy session[s].” A Branson educator referred to Grant’s “blurred boundaries around propriety,” and noted that Grant’s office couch was known among students as the “crying couch.” Another Branson educator described Grant as “voyeuristic” in pushing students to tell him about their “traumatic” experiences as part of the college essay writing process. We wrote to Grant and asked to speak with him. We informed Grant that we had received reports that he had “engaged in sexual misconduct with one or more [Branson] students.” Grant provided a written denial: “Any allegation that I committed misconduct against one of my students is false. I never committed any inappropriate conduct with any students at Branson or anywhere else.” Grant’s attorney followed up to say that Grant would not speak with us. Student 9 Student 9 told us that she began interacting with Grant during her sophomore year, and then was assigned to Grant’s college counseling group in her junior year. Student 9 said that Grant almost immediately began asking about “very personal” aspects of her life, including her family relationships. Student 9 said that Grant discouraged her from confiding in her mother and insisted that he was a “‘better support system.’” Student 9 recounted that Grant also shared intimate details about himself with her, including about personal traumas. Student 9 said that beginning in the fall of her junior year, she and Grant went on walks, hikes, and to at least one movie. She told us that Grant also invited her to his home, which she described in detail. Student 9 recounted going into 12

Grant’s bedroom and watching movies together on his bed. She said that Grant compared the two of them to a couple in a romantic movie. After visiting Grant’s home a few times, Student 9 said that Grant kissed her and then proposed that they have sexual intercourse. Student 9 said she initially declined and that she told Grant she was a virgin. She said that Grant persisted in proposing intercourse, and she eventually agreed. Student 9 said that she was then in her junior year and 16 years old. Student 9 described Grant commenting that sex would be fine because she would be 18 in a year, incorrectly assuming that she was then 17. Student 9 also recalled Grant saying that society deemed their relationship to be “bad,” but that “age was just a number.” After they had sex, Student 9 said that Grant “freaked out” and told her that he could go to jail. Student 9 told us that she assured Grant that she would not tell anyone. She described sending Grant a text message to apologize for bleeding on his sheets, and Grant instructing her not to send “‘things like that’” and to delete everything she texted him, which she told us she did. Student 9 said that she and Grant had intercourse and oral sex a number of times. Student 9 kept a journal in high school; she told us that she intentionally did not name Grant in her journal, “in case someone found it,” and verified that the entries below, dated in her junior year, refer to Grant: What am I to him? An occasional fuck? Someone to relieve his sexual tensions? . . . . I didn’t want it to be like th[i]s, I didn’t want to lose my virginity like this, because right now, I am in so much fucking pain. I feel like a child but I need him. He is always going to be the one who took my virginity. . . . Everything is working out for him. His new business is thriving . . . . Corporate records indicate that HighGround Education, a Bay Area-based college counseling company founded by Grant, was registered with the State of California a month prior to the above entries. During the summer after her junior year, Student 9 and other students participated in a program which Grant organized to write college essays at his parents’ property in Scotland. This program was not sponsored by Branson. Student 9 told us that she and Grant had sex in Scotland. A classmate, Graduate 3, who attended the Scotland program, said that Student 9 was the only student he recalled who spent time in Grant’s parents’ home. Graduate 3 also observed that Student 9 seemed more stressed and not herself during the program. Student 9 said that, while in Scotland, she told her mother personal information about Grant that he had shared with her. We spoke with Student 9’s


mother, who confirmed that discussion. Student 9’s mother said that she contacted Grant in Scotland to convey her discomfort with the personal nature of his discussions with her daughter. Student 9 told us that Grant was upset by this communication and said to Student 9 that she had “‘violated a really sacred trust.’” We reviewed a journal entry Student 9 made while she was in Scotland. Student 9 told us that the “A” in the excerpt below refers to Alistair Grant: I don’t think I will ever forgive myself. . . . I trusted [my mother], and god I was so foolish. He no longer looks at me and feels the sacredness of the relationship. He no longer looks at me and sees someone who he can trust completely, who he can expose his heart and soul to. . . . He was so cold, so distant, so hurt, and I could do nothing but watch helplessly, knowing that his pain is entirely my fault. . . . I want him to stay mine. And I want to be A’s. After she returned from Scotland, Student 9 said that Grant invited her to his home and they had sex. Student 9 told us that their sexual contact ended at that point. We spoke with three of Student 9’s classmates, including Graduate 3. Each of those classmates told us that Student 9 had confided in them about Grant around the time of their graduation from Branson, and conveyed that he had sexually violated her. Graduate 4 said that Student 9 was “very shaken up” and “visibly upset” when speaking about Grant, and that she “seemed very hurt and like something bad happened.” Graduate 5 recounted Student 9 also telling her that Grant had “freaked out,” “yelled,” and “was so angry with her” when Student 9 shared Grant’s personal details with her mother. Graduate 5’s father told us his daughter relayed to him this conversation with Student 9, and that he had previously heard from his daughter that Grant treated Student 9 “like a girlfriend.” Graduate 5’s father also said that he had warned his daughter to “‘be careful’” with Grant while she was at Branson, after hearing about the personal conversations Grant initiated during college counseling sessions with his daughter. Student 9 disclosed to a teacher what had happened with Grant. That teacher then reported Student 9’s account to Woody Price, then Head of School, and another faculty member. That same day, Price met with Student 9 and her family, and immediately notified the police. Price also informed the Chair of the Board of Trustees and, following a Board meeting on the next day, the school sent a letter to Branson families stating that Branson had received a report that Grant “had inappropriate sexual contact with a high school student” and that Branson had notified law enforcement authorities. The school, through Price or its outside counsel, spoke with the police on several occasions. The school’s lawyer informed us that, in April of the following year, she spoke with the police and was informed that


the investigation was closed but might be revisited. The school did not separately undertake an investigation of Alistair Grant’s conduct at that time. We have been told that Branson parents, including members of Branson’s administration and Board of Trustees, have continued to hire Grant to provide private college counseling services to their children. Student 10 Student 10 was assigned to Grant’s college counseling group in her junior year when she was 16 years old. Student 10 said that her meetings with Grant quickly became “deeply personal,” and that he offered unsolicited advice about her life. Student 10 told us that Grant provided her with private college counseling, and that he “worked his way into [her] family” and would join them for dinner. Student 10 recounted that Grant would, at the same time, criticize Student 10’s mother to her and “driv[e] wedges” in her family. Student 10 told us that she and Grant worked on her college applications in her bedroom with the door closed. Student 10 recalled Grant instructing her to list things she loved and hated about herself and, after reviewing it, Grant saying that she was “‘too fucked up’” to help. She said that, over time, they sat together on her bed. She described Grant as “always holding my hands or touching my shoulders or giving me hugs.” Student 10 said that Grant also “did a lot of crying,” in person and during phone calls, and that Grant would get “so emotional” about her that he “would get choked up.” Student 10 told us that she felt “guilty” and “didn’t know what [she] was supposed to be doing.” Student 10 said that in her senior year, Grant kissed her on her cheek and told her that he loved her. She described how Grant, at one point, touched her upper thigh over her clothing and that, more than once, while commenting on his healthy lifestyle, instructed Student 10 to feel his bare stomach, which she did. Student 10 said that she and Grant spent a lot of time together, including hiking, walking around the city, and watching a movie at Grant’s home, and that they often held hands. Student 10 described Grant’s home with great specificity. Student 10 said that Grant shared intimate information about himself with her, including past traumas. She told us that Grant would text and call her frequently, and would get angry if she did not respond. Student 10 told us that, for her “capstone” senior project, Grant encouraged her to choose “Camp Alistair” rather than an internship. We reviewed an email Grant sent Student 10, in which he described “Camp Alistair” as time every weekday “for an adventure” such as “driv[ing] to the Santa Cruz mountains” or “go[ing] to the gym” with him.


Student 10 kept a journal, with entries, among others, dated in her senior year and the year following, referring to Grant by name: Alistair: “I love you[.]” Me: “You too” and I do. I am so mad at Alistair Grant and for absolutely no good reason. . . . Maybe you are a child creep. For showing me your stomach fat. . . . For the kiss. And for making me feel special. For making me feel cared about/loved. I almost started crying because all I could think about was Alistair and the disgusting things that he did to me. I had a lot of time to consider my relationship with Alistair. Thinking about him makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. Everything that happened between us (the small, inappropriate touches, the obviously inappropriate touches, the verbal boundaries crossed, the emotional boundaries crossed, the physical boundaries crossed, the “grooming” he did of me and my parents . . . to slowly integrate himself more deeply into our family, etc.). Student 10’s journal indicates that she informed her cousin the year after her graduation from Branson about an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship, and recounts that conversation: “And I let someone abuse me for, like, a year and a half.” The first thing she said was perhaps exactly what I needed to hear, “[Student 10], nobody lets someone abuse them. You can say that you were abused but you cannot say that you let someone abuse you.” . . . Then she asked, “Emotional? Sexual?” “Everything,” I answered. We spoke with Student 10’s cousin, who said that Student 10 told her that “things happened” with “one of her teachers.” Student 10’s cousin said that she then researched resources and contacted a hotline for survivors of sexual abuse. Other Reports We received other reports of sexual misconduct, as described below. Six graduates reported that a former teacher and coach had a close relationship with a classmate in the 1970s; this student did not contact us. Witnesses described seeing the teacher, who was in his early thirties at the time, and the student on school grounds holding hands or with their arms around each other. A former administrator said he heard from the Head of School at the time that the teacher was “dating” a student and that Branson had instructed the


teacher to stop doing so. One graduate stated that he saw the teacher and the student together at the student’s college after she had graduated from Branson. We spoke with this former teacher. He recalled the Assistant Head of School speaking to him and other coaches about students spending “too much time” around their offices. The teacher told us that he and the student had a “close friendship,” but not a “romantic relationship.” When asked about being seen with the student at her college, the teacher acknowledged that he had visited her several times because it “seemed like there might have been some special feeling, . . . but that didn’t pan out.” He said that he may have held hands with the student during these college visits, but denied any other physical contact. A 1970s graduate reported to us that her math teacher, whose name she did not recall, kissed and touched her breasts while they were hiking together. The graduate described pushing him away and running back to school. The graduate’s classmate contacted us to say that the graduate had told her about the interaction around the time it occurred. Another 1970s graduate told us that a now-deceased staff member grabbed her breasts and attempted to kiss her. The graduate shared this incident with a classmate, who also told us about it. We received a number of other reports of sexual misconduct, including reports about sexual intercourse or other inappropriate interactions between Branson educators and students. We were unable to corroborate those reports or gather sufficient information about them. Conclusion Our independent investigation has come to a close. If members of the Branson community have additional information about sexual misconduct at Branson, please contact Michelle Jones, Director of Human Resources, at or 415.455.7126.


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