EMMA WILLARD SCHOOL
There should be no more victims of sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard campus. The Alumnae Advisory Task Force hopes that the Emma Willard community will generate the tools to keep students safe and continue the fight to maintain this new aspect of the mission of Madame Willard long after they have left Mt. Ida.
ALUMNAE ADVISORY TASK FORCE
Kimberly S. Jones, Chair
FINAL REPORT Spring 2017
Table of Contents Open Letter to Board Chair Elisabeth A. LeFort………………………………..………3 I.
Review of Past Handbooks and Handbooks of Peer Schools…………………………...5
Review of Current Handbooks, 60-Day Plan and Healthy Boundaries Booklet………..8
Recommendations Based on Initial Work of CORE Leadership Team……….…….….15
Cozen O’Connor Report………….………………………………….………………….16
Future at Emma………………….……………………………...……………………….20
Appendix I: July Letter from the Alumnae to the Chair of the Head of School Search Committee
Appendix II: CDC 2014 Fact Sheet on Sexual Violence
Alumnae Advisory Task Force Emma Willard School 285 Pawling Avenue Troy, New York 12180 An Open Letter to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Elisabeth LeFort, Interim Head of School, Dr. Susan Groesbeck, the Board of Trustees and the Emma Willard Community: It has been my honor to serve as the Chair of the Alumnae Advisory Task Force since its formation in August 2016. To be candid, I began the task feeling that the Emma that I loved as a student was gone. Many familiar faculty have retired. Names of organizations and some traditions have changed. Moreover, like many alumnae, I had a sense of heart-break and betrayal in the wake of the revelations of the summer of 2016. We are also aware of the sexual misconduct scandals unfolding at peer institutions. The task seemed insurmountable. Nevertheless, it is humbling to present the final report of the Alumnae Advisory Task Force. While critical, this report also offers recommendations and legitimate hope for the future of Emma Willard School. This report would not have been possible without the assistance, work and cooperation of several individuals. Everyone in administration and governance with whom we had contact exhibited professionalism and a sincere commitment to Emma Willard School, but there are two individuals whose support and encouragement of the Alumnae Advisory Task Force is worthy of special note. I sincerely appreciate the steady and focused leadership of outgoing Board Chair, Elisabeth A. LeFort. She encouraged the candid, steady flow of communication that the community needs now and in the future. Her commitment to the school becoming a leader in the fight against sexual misconduct was unwavering. Her stewardship of Emma Willard during these turbulent times is worthy of deep gratitude. Lisa McGrath, Head of Talent Management/Human Resources, was my pipeline to the School and the administration throughout this process. Her professionalism, good humor and commitment to a safe and healthy Emma helped to renew my hope for future of the School. The EWS Alums Against Sexual Abuse, which is a social media group with nearly 1,200 members, also deserves special thanks. The administrators of this group: Martha Deeds, Leslie MacFayden, Amanda Bock, Liliana Mason, and Erica Duffy helped to educate, organize and create a space for alumnae to discuss their complicated emotions during a confusing time. Despite the mischaracterization of their intentions, the administrators endured because of their love of Emma Willard and sincere concern for future Emma girls. Peter Brooks provided valuable insights to secondary school sexual misconduct. He continues to edify and inspire. I especially want to thank the other members of the AATF: Andrea Hanley, Vice Chair, and Liliana Mason, Ph. D. The AATF are Emma women from all over the country who graduated at different times in schoolâ€™s history. But it didnâ€™t matter. As alumnae, we had Revels, Senior Triangle, and our love of the Emma to bind us together in a unique and timeless way. No matter what challenge the circumstances or I created, there was always someone there to answer the call. I appreciate their commitment, patience and selflessness in pursuit of this goal. I also want to thank the alumnae who began the AATF process with us with the best of intentions and provided their insight along the way: Gildade Boursiqout, M.D., Courtney Breiner, Flora Lazar, and Rebecca Kaufman. 3
The Alumnae Advisory Task Force undertook this work with the current students and the alumnae community as our guiding concerns. It is to Emma Willard Schoolâ€™s survivors of sexual misconduct that we dedicate this report. Semper fidelis, Kimberly S. Jones Chair, Alumnae Advisory Task Force May 2017
Alumnae Advisory Task Force Final Report The Alumnae Advisory Task Force (“AATF”) was charged with the mission of review and guidance in the following areas: (a) school policies and practices regarding sexual harassment and abuse; (b) the employee and student handbooks; and (c) action as a liaison between the school’s administration, faculty and students, as appropriate or necessary. This document represents the full scope of our work and recommendations regarding Emma Willard School’s 1) history and contextualization of sexual assault 2) current practices and 3) future reputation as a leader in training women to recognize and combat rape culture and sexual violence. In our final report, we attempt to aggregate our findings and observations, as well as provide additional recommendations based on insights we have gathered since January 2017. The July letter to incoming Board Chair, then Chair of the Head of School Search Committee, Susan Hunter has been appended to this document. The AATF January 2017 Interim Report to the Board of Trustees, “Fine Print” for the 2016-17 Academic Year, prior to amendments, the Faculty/Staff Handbook for the 2016-17 Academic Year, and “Report of Historical Allegations of Sexual Abuse & Misconduct: The Emma Willard School, Chronology of Reported Conduct from 1950s to 2010s” by Gina Maisto Smith, Esq. and Leslie Gomez, Esq. (the “Report”) are all incorporated by reference. I. Review of Past Handbooks and Handbooks of Peer Schools To provide an honest assessment of current policy of Emma Willard School (the “School”), we felt it necessary to also look back to help us understand what policies and procedures were missing or errant in the past, and to look around to help us understand the general boarding school climate and culture. A. Findings on past EWS handbooks Past handbooks provided to the AATF for review had no explicit reference to sexual assault or abuse. The language about sexual harassment was boilerplate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission text that generally addressed sexual harassment. Distinct language about sexual assault must be carefully drafted and prominently featured in the written policy. Students were, in fact, vulnerable to predators in every previous decade from at least the 1950s. There were no written policies that identified sexual abuse. As a result, there was no language for a sexual misconduct protocol for students or faculty to follow when sexual misconduct is suspected, recognized or abuse needed to be reported. We should be clear that the New York State “Mandated Reporting” laws provide a loophole for private residential educational institutions such as Emma Willard School. Emma Willard School should strive to do more than what New York State law requires to keep its students safe. If the school looks only to the letter of the law for guidance, the integrity of the school and its reputation as a leader in girls’ education in New York State, the country, and the world will suffer. The Mandated Reporting procedures that are set forth in the Faculty handbook for the current year aren’t clear. Faculty need to understand what would trigger a report as a Mandated Reporter, and that reasonable suspicion is all that is required. Reasonable doubt is not the evidentiary standard, so the adults involved should move quickly to protect students, which will also limit liability for the School. There has been a great deal of focus on the administration and faculty members who were bad or ineffective actors, which is appropriate. However, some attention must 5
also be given to faculty and staff members who were bystanders during decades of sexual misconduct. To be clear, the AATF continues to respect the faculty and administrators with whom we interacted, unless we hear clear evidence that would change our opinion. But as we look back upon our years at Emma Willard, we do wonder how they could not see what was so obvious to teenaged girls? Therefore, if the adults we respected were not speaking out on our behalf, how could we possibly hope to be believed? If we did speak out, but then were dismissed, then what incentive would we have to try to intervene again? This dynamic was the perfect scenario for bad actors to flourish. Further, the board, administrators, faculty and staff had a legal duty to use reasonable care to keep students safe. It is not within our scope to opine as to whether the School breached this duty, but valid concerns have been raised. The governance, administration, faculty and staff of the Emma Willard community must be more proactive about the issue of sexual misconduct via annual training and the willingness to change what is wrong with the Emma Willard culture. If the adults involved wait for the warning signs to ripen into something rotten, it is already too late for the student body. The fear, ambivalence and excuses expressed by anonymous former faculty in the Report was disappointing and troubling. The Board of Trustees (the Board”) must set a new standard for the faculty, staff and every adult who encounters students. We cannot say with certainty that the ensuing years would have been different if the Board had enacted a “zero tolerance” policy for child sexual misconduct in the wake of Dr. Frances O’Connor’s remarks in 1978. Nonetheless, it is fair to say there was a missed opportunity to address the issue in the face of first-person reports of misconduct. B. Recommendations 1. Communicate candidly to alumnae that past policies did not ensure their protection from assault, abuse, or harassment. 2. Pledge transparency in sharing findings from all investigations. 3. Provide support in whatever form requested to past victims. 4. Encourage the creation of “safe space,” in the form of a campus-based rape crisis group for survivor support.
5. Enter a Memorandum of Understanding with a local rape crisis center (e.g., RAINN) to be a familiar resource on campus that is easily and anonymously accessible to students. 6. Create a crisis management communication team, which will consult with external experts as needed, used to notify the broader community of reports of assault, abuse, or harassment (or any other tragedy) in a sensitive and informative manner.
7. Commit to clear and fulsome reporting to alumnae. Lack of it will affect alumnae support and giving. This reporting should be unified and consistent – contradictory messages from different parts of the School are unacceptable and generate distrust. a. There should be an understanding that the alumnae community is a stakeholder group that should not be spoken to, rather we should be spoken with when it comes to issues of concern on the Emma Willard School campus. A more candid, consistent, and collaborative relationship with the alumnae community must be developed now for the good of the future. Alumnae should feel in a constant state of dialogue with the School. b. The Alumnae Association Council (“AAC”) is an opaque, underutilized resource that is lacking in diverse alumnae viewpoints. The AAC should be more interactive with alumnae in candid and informed ways that would allow the organization to take a variety of perspectives back to the administration and board, not just positive news. Alumnae should know more about the AAC and how they can get involved. Nevertheless, the AAC should not be the only way for alumnae to interact with the School on a meaningful and consistent basis. C. Review of Peer Schools: In our review of peer school sexual assault policies, we came to appreciate the importance of the following qualities in secondary school protocol: 1. Ease of electronic access to handbook from the School’s website. 2. One universal handbook for students, parents, and faculty/staff. 3. Clear points of contact to report assault or abuse. 4. Specific written policy to conduct full and comprehensive background check on anyone who resides on campus over the age of 17. 5. Policies that could address any possible scenario to include off-campus assaults/abuse. 6. Specific definitions of harassment, assault, and abuse - clearly stating what is illegal and in violation of policy versus what is “appropriate” or “not appropriate.” 7. Policies that outline how harassment/assault/abuse.
8. Mandate for record-keeping of reports made.
II. Review of Current Handbooks, 60-day Plan, and Healthy Boundaries Booklet We examined the Schoolâ€™s current (and evolving) set of guidelines for the entire Emma Willard campus community about sexual safety. We kept at the forefront of our questions the idea that the AATF is a voice to speak directly for students and their interests. Our priorities were to make sure students were empowered and respected by the School. A major theme that arose from these examinations was the need for everyone to understand Emma Willardâ€™s in loco parentis role, which is custodial and tutelary. The legal duty that flows from this position is significant and full of responsibility in every way imaginable. But it is the mistaken belief that the School has an obligation to provide the emotional support of a parent that starts to blur lines for students and create opportunities for predators. The students, particularly boarding students, live in an extraordinarily vulnerable position regarding authority figures, and our recommendations are an attempt to provide Emma Willard with an approach to education that is largely one of emotional health, responsible and responsive care, and personal growth. A. Recommendations:
All students and staff must be trained to understand, recognize, and report rape culture. This term should be clearly defined for all students, and all other members of the campus community. a. To be clear, rape culture is defined by a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse. This includes victim blaming and shaming. b. No Emma student should ever feel ashamed to report sexual abuse due to concerns based in rape culture. c. To this end, the School should re-evaluate and innovate peer educator and proctor training. Consider designating 2 to 3 girls per class year for very specialized training and support to function as sexual assault peer educators. These young women will have a role that is separate and apart from peer educators and proctors, but would function as a part of the same peer support team. In practice, girls will consult each other before approaching an adult in most situations. d. Teachers must receive training that should include the implementation of new policies and procedures to report possible colleague sexual misconduct against a student to their superiors (whistleblower protections). There should be systems in place should an administrator decline to investigate or influence a reporting teacher to remain silent (see Section 6, herein). The teacher must alert another authority and/or appropriate law enforcement, pursuant to the Mandated Reporting procedure without fear of retaliation. The current Whistleblower Protection policy, as stated in the Faculty Handbook, is unclear. The fact that the protections extend to reporting a colleague for sexual misconduct must be pieced together. A clearer, comprehensive Whistleblower Protection policy should be contemplated.
Law enforcement shall be notified immediately. The notification of law enforcement cannot be a discretionary decision. As the policy is currently 8
constructed, contact with law enforcement appears to be a discretionary decision made by the head of school. The policy must remove doubt and discretion from this vital piece of the puzzle. If sexual misconduct has been alleged, then the student, who should be the School’s priority, should be afforded the opportunity to pursue justice. Faculty are also an integral part of the Emma Willard community, and therefore, should be given the opportunity to settle the matter in a court of law. The inclusion of law enforcement is essential to minimizing the danger that known sexual predators will strike again at a different educational institution. 3.
Faculty and staff should undergo annual sexual violence training and upskilling to identify potential signs of sexual improprieties and how to create a safe campus environment.
Parents, students, faculty, staff, administrators and the entire Board of Trustees should be thoroughly educated and trained in how to identify and report child sexual predator grooming behaviors. According to VictimsOfCrimes.Org, “grooming begins by the identifying potential victims, gaining their trust, and breaking down their defenses.” (National Center for Victims of Crime, n.d.) Unquestioned access and a culture that accepts secrecy are crucial for sexual abuse predators to continue their conduct without detection. Another reason that the perpetrator can exploit children over a span of years because “he or she holds the power in the relationship based on age and experience, size and strength, and adult status,” according to VictimsOfCrime.Org. It is vitally important that the Emma Willard community confront the fact that graduation does not legitimize years of grooming and misconduct between a faculty member and a young alumna.
The Board should appoint an individual whose sole purview would be sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard campus, an Ombudsman. For example, a retired Title IX officer from a local university could be hired to take on this responsibility. In the opinion of the AATF, it is important that this individual not be looped into campus politics that could influence or distract from their work. The Ombudsman would have the responsibility of setting up the infrastructure of the new sexual misconduct policies and procedures. This individual would work with the existing administration, but report directly to the Board of Trustees. As a result, the Ombudsman ensures the flow of communication in manner that is in the best interests of the School. Further, this position creates a small measure of checks and balances that appears to be missing on the issue of sexual misconduct on campus.
Students should be empowered to point out antiquated and gendered language, even when coming from faculty. a. Students, starting in the freshman year, will receive education that is age adjusted and appropriate to give girls the language, knowledge and awareness to be proactive about their safety as young women. i. For juniors and seniors, the curriculum begins to add more sophisticated material that will empower and deepen their understanding as the girls prepare to attend college. 9
b. Appropriate and specific physiological terms should be used to define sexual abuse for students and staff. c. Faculty should be very aware of the language they use to discuss women’s voices and the casual sexism that exists in modern culture. 7.
“Fine Print” should be combined with the faculty/staff handbook to generate a single community handbook, empowering the students to understand the rules governing their authority figures. a.
This unified community handbook should be sent to parents and students prior to the start of the school year to give families the opportunity to digest and discuss the important issues involved in sexual misconduct and the expected behavior from everyone on campus.
All community members – including parents – must acknowledge via documented signatures that they have read and understood these policies.
Create a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which would clearly set out the situations when the School would contact them and when the administration would exercise its own discretion. The avoidance of misunderstanding is a risk management issue as well as a parental empowerment concern.
Included in this community handbook should be a standard procedure for staff and students to report abuse, using common terminology for all members of the community.
Non-employees both on and off-campus (including tutors recommended by the School) should be subject to the rules governing faculty and staff conduct.
The sexual misconduct reporting process should be as well-understood and deeply rooted in the Emma Willard culture as the rules against fire in the dormitories.
“Healthy Boundaries,” the designated page on the School website, needs to provide real tools for combatting abuse, including direct links to relevant parts of the community handbook and the designated local rape crisis support group. Navigation to the “Healthy Boundaries” page should be easily and intuitively accessible from the EWS website landing page. We suggest a link on the School web site’s landing page to the “Safety” page, which we believe will be wellappreciated by prospective parents.
Students who do not reside on campus are not immune to child sexual assault and misconduct. There are fewer systems in place on campus for non-resident students because there is the assumption that parents will observe any changes in behavior. Parents assume that their child is safe while on campus. The gap in close monitoring presents the perfect occasion for grooming and the concomitant 10
predatory sexual behavior. The School must be proactive in dealing with this opportunity for sexual misconduct. 15.
If a student demonstrates abrupt changes in behavior or attitude, there must be at least one person designated and trained to notice this (the way a parent would if the student lived at home – this is the great vulnerability of the boarding student). a. Instead of discipline, it is incumbent upon the School to invoke the “Safe Harbor” policy for the student to take time to explore the reasons behind these behavioral changes. b. Even if sexual misconduct is not the issue, abrupt changes in behavior are a well-documented indication that the School needs to intervene in the best interests of the student. c. Often this behavior may be the School’s only sign that sexual abuse is occurring. d. Mental health support must be a priority. e. This recommendation comes with the caveat that the parents should be notified immediately and a written policy and procedure must also be in place.
There must be a way to anonymously report sexual abuse - whether it be through an outside entity, email, or other process to ensure young women feel safe in reporting.
The Safe Harbor policy currently elaborated in “Fine Print” is confusing and poorly placed. At the time of our initial review, the “Safe Harbor policy” did not include language that would comfort a victim of assault and instead refers to potential disciplinary action. The policy must be clarified to encourage students to use it for its intended purpose. The placement of the clause near disciplinary clauses sends a very confusing, sub-textual message. a. The solution is to have a separate section for sexual misconduct that has its own “Safe Harbor policy,” which should not be confused with the existing safe harbor policy, even though they function in a similar manner. The current wording dissuades reporting and should be changed to indicate actual safety. We have been told the policy has been clarified, but have not had the opportunity to review the changes. Therefore, we cannot offer an assessment as to whether these changes are effective.
It must be made abundantly clear that consent cannot, and does not, exist at Emma Willard between a student and an authority figure of any kind, regardless of the respective ages of the student and the authority figure. Emma Willard must not hide behind the law on this issue. It would not place too fine a point on the issue for the Board of Trustees to issue a statement that Emma Willard has “Zero 11
Toleranceâ€? for such behavior, and it is grounds for immediate dismissal, as provided herein. a. Sexual misconduct must be dealt with from the top down and from the bottom up. In other words, policy must come from the board that speaks firmly and clearly to the issue, but there must also be practical solutions that come from the faculty and staff who must live these policies. To be the tip of the spear in the fight against sexual misconduct in private secondary schools, Emma Willard must make clear that the imbalance of power wipes away any pretense of consent. b. The School shall not tolerate any improper associations between faculty or staff and students. It shall be grounds for immediate termination of the employee. This policy currently exists, but is buried in the text. The prohibition against sexual and emotionally intimate relationships between students and any adult associated with Emma Willard needs to be stated upfront, in bold, and in a larger font to stress the emphasis the School places on this issue. c. If Emma Willard School terminates an employee on the grounds of sexual misconduct with a student, the matter should have already have been reported to law enforcement, if applicable by New York State law. In addition, the grounds for termination should be noted in the former employeeâ€™s file, the former employee should be reported to the NAIS or TABS database the AATF is proposing, and the School shall not offer a letter of recommendation on behalf of this employee at any time. 19.
Emma Willard should produce an annual report about the state of campus safety that would include sexual misconduct data, which would be analogous to the reporting required of colleges and universities by Title IX and the Cleary Act.
All policies and procedures relative to sexual misconduct shall be written and posted online and in hard copy in several easily accessible physical locations. Students and parents should all know what steps to take and what resources are available to them. No student should have to search for help during a time of shock, turmoil and duress.
Predators have grown as sophisticated as the world in which we live. Therefore, the efforts to keep Emma girls safe must also keep pace. Cyber predation presents a real threat that must be addressed. The School knows of allegations of a former faculty member utilizing the internet in sexual misconduct with a former student. Serious consideration must be given to this issue and policies must be under constant revisions and updates that are practical and effective. a. We recommend the engagement of cyber-security professional to determine what additional firewalls and safeguards can be put in place to deter the use of the internet as a tool of sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard campus. 12
Emma Willard needs to address issues with ineffective internal and external communication promptly and aggressively. Internal communication among the governance and administration at the School at times seemed incomplete, at best, and dangerously flawed, at worst. a. While operational management is the domain of the administration, the AATF strongly encourages the Board of Trustees to consider the implementation of additional risk management systems to ensure that they can act on situations that present 21st Century legal, fiscal and reputational risk to the School immediately. b. The stakeholders of the Emma Willard community should also be made aware of serious events on campus as soon as logistically possible. There cannot be significant gaps in time before the administration and/or board of trustees communicates with the stakeholders who are not on campus. These lags in time will only further distrust, increase damage to the School’s integrity during a time of transition and create reputational risk. c. It is worth repeating that the events of the past year warranted retaining professional crisis management. The subject matter is delicate. The various stakeholder communities have similar, yet varying, interests and perspectives that may appear to be competitive. The shock of the revelations of the summer of 2016 were difficult for the entire Emma community. It is our assessment that the situation did not require marketing material. The times demanded effective crisis management for an unprecedented public and private watershed moment for Emma Willard School. i. Crisis management was needed last summer, and may be needed in these days and months after the Cozen O’Connor report, as discussed herein.
Emma Willard has a unique opportunity to be a leader and an advocate amongst its peers. However, since many of Emma Willard School’s peers in the National Association of Independent Schools (“NAIS”) and The Association of Boarding Schools (“TABS”) are also confronting issues of legacy sexual abuse, the entire “industry” must change its approach to the problem. a.
Advocate with TABS for the creation of an annual climate survey that can be administered to member schools. Due to the significant number of member schools, the cost of such an annual survey would be lower than if an individual school undertook the endeavor alone. By potentially reducing the cost and providing a template, increased participation is possible. The more schools that confront the issue of sexual misconduct candidly, the better it is for the integrity of private secondary schools that have an emphasis on the boarding experience.
Advocate NAIS and TABS to create a central, national database for the listing of employees who have been terminated for sexual misconduct. i.
Portion of each schoolâ€™s member dues will go towards the maintenance of this essential database. ii. Discuss with other member schools whether this database should be cross-referenced with law enforcement local to the schools and the FBI. iii. Encourage contact and cooperation with law enforcement.
III. Recommendations Based on Initial Work of CORE Leadership Team The on-going work with the Culture of Respect and the creation of the CORE Leadership Team is a positive development. The AATF is represented on the CORE Leadership Team. Culture of Respect’s experience with Title IX and Cleary Act mandates around sexual misconduct reporting benefit Emma Willard’s stated goal of establishing best practices and becoming a leader on the issue of campus sexual assault and misconduct. The process Culture of Respect is taking the School through is informative and important. With representatives from all the Community’s stakeholders, except the Board of Trustees, the CORE Leadership team completed an evaluation that examined six areas of interest: 1) Survivor Support, 2) Clear Policies, 3) Multitiered Education, 4) Public Disclosure, 5) School-wide Mobilization and 6) Ongoing Self-Assessment. To be frank, the School’s initial evaluation was disappointing, but not surprising. There is a great deal of opportunity for growth. To solve this issue, we must be unflinching as we confront factors that enabled sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard campus. The School is done a disservice if the past ten to twelve months, which show the start of encouraging improvement, are made to seem as though they have been the pattern and practice of the School for the past 60 years. Nonetheless, the work of the CORE Leadership Team offers the best hope for the requisite institutional and cultural change in policy and procedure. The CORE evaluation exposed the School’s blind spots to everyone at the table.
Attorneys Gina Maisto Smith, Esq. and Leslie Gomez, Esq., of the law firm Cozen O’Connor, released an external report, “Report of Historical Allegations of Sexual Abuse & Misconduct: The Emma Willard School, Chronology of Reported Conduct from 1950’s to 2010’s” ( the “Report”), on April 18, 2017. Since the Report was released prior to the finalization of this report by the AATF, we would be remiss if we did not include it our review. It should be clearly noted that at the outset, we present the findings of the AATF regarding the Report, which are assessments independent of the views of the Board and Administration of the School. The Report is, and must be, merely a preliminary effort to investigate the School’s legacy in sexual misconduct. In theory, it is good that an investigation was undertaken; it was the appropriate course of action for the Board to take. Further, we appreciate the fact that the Board did not want to taint the investigation by being overly involved in the process. Nevertheless, there are flaws and concerns about the Report that cannot be dismissed or trivialized. The AATF has a fundamental concern as whether it was in the best interests of the School to continue to retain Attorneys Smith and Gomez, whose initial scope of work began in 2014 and encompassed a very different function, which according to all the information we gathered, they completed to the satisfaction of all involved. But by the Spring of 2016, Emma Willard’s needs changed. The administration and governance of the School have also indicated that this was the case. Whether Smith and Gomez were the best choice for the task is “in the eye of the beholder,” however, it is the opinion of the AATF that a fresh perspective with no previous business, association or ties to the School may have been a better alternative. In terms of the Report, the AATF will present a few of our strongest concerns. We recognize that the Emma Willard alumnae community is approximately 7000 individuals strong, and therefore is not a monolith. We do not claim to present all alumnae viewpoints regarding the Report. The AATF will, however, raise some concerns about the Report that exemplify where we feel the document is extremely problematic. The issues highlighted objectively run counter to the expressed desire that Emma Willard School become an example in the positive fight against rape culture and legacy sexual misconduct on a residential secondary school campus. A. Transparency Rape Shield Laws, privacy, and the express request of the witnesses and complainants, many of whom were minors at the time the events occurred, were appropriately cited as the rationale behind not identifying the alumnae who offered statements, whether it was a first-hand or a third-party account. To shield faculty, staff and administration who were, presumably in good faith, performing their duties, within their existing professional and legal obligations, creates a rebuttable presumption that the discussion is not authentically transparent, as promised. Administrators, even more than faculty, should not have the luxury, in hindsight, of dodging their decisions in anonymity. In the Report, “1990’s Fifth Report, Male Faculty Member,” (p. 58) which was not based on an alumna report, all of the administrators involved were named and quoted in a set of circumstances where they all performed their duties as we would expect. However, in situations where the Emma Willard community might be critical or disapproving, the Report protects the 16
same administrators under a veil of anonymity. What the Report has done, perhaps unintentionally, is extend the “culture of secrecy” that is essential to campus sexual misconduct to the very report intended to expose it. If secrecy and adults functioning in the shadows persists, Emma Willard cannot hope to rebuild faith and trust with those who were harmed on its campus, and the School remains vulnerable to pedophiles and predators. B. Consistency There were numerous areas where the thread of consistency seemed to disappear in the Report. As a result, the integrity of the entire Report starts to come into question. One observation must be noted. Only one complainant’s allegation was adjudicated by Attorneys Smith and Gomez, who were, by their own admission, incomplete finders of fact, as to whether it was credible and whether the sexual encounter was unwelcomed. Since this assessment was appropriately not performed on any other complainant, one must ask why one complainant was singled out for this treatment? In addition, there are two other key areas that are particularly troubling: 1. Identification of Respondents It was an issue of concern prior to the release of the Report whether there would be redactions that would result in the removal of the names of adults who perpetrated acts of sexual misconduct, including unwanted touching, upon Emma Willard students. The Board of Trustees assured the Emma Willard community of full, yet responsible, transparency. Upon release of the Report, it was difficult to determine the standards used to determine when respondents would be named. The parameters were not set out early in the document in a clear, concise, easily recognizable manner. This style choice was problematic enough, but the decision not to follow their own guidelines resulted in confusion. It seems peculiar that eyewitness statements are relegated to same importance as a rumor when attempting to establish whether the information gathered is sufficient to name a respondent. For example, 1990’s Third Report, Male Faculty Member appears to have met the Cozen O’Connor evidentiary standard but is not named in the Report. (p. 56) 2. Number of Reports At the start of each decade, the Report specified the number of reports received, the number of respondents concerned, the number of reports that came from complainants, the number of reports that came from third parties, and the number of reports that were anonymous. Unfortunately, this information does not sync up with the data provided in the case by case analysis. With the 1990’s as an example, the introduction to the decade states that there were 14 reports regarding 11 respondents. However, upon closer review of the Report, Cozen O’Connor indicate they received over three dozen third party reports for Scott Barton and Scott Sargent alone. What number is to be believed? Why is there inconsistency between the numbers? C. Confidentiality The AATF believes that Attorneys Smith and Gomez maintained the anonymity of those who made that request. Further, it was made clear that Emma Willard School was the client and they would be acting in the interests of the School, while maintaining their professional and 17
ethical obligations as licensed attorneys and members of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our concern is with the School divulging information in an alumna’s Emma Willard files or any communication alumnae may have had with an administrator with the belief, mistaken evidently, that those conversations would be confidential. Did the School seek express permission from alumnae to release the information in their files for the investigation? Do students have a mistaken understanding about the confidentiality of their files as students and alumnae? Current students will not be able to develop the trust and confidence to discuss their most personal crises with School administrators or advisors if they believe that information might be used to benefit the Emma Willard with no thought of the consequences to individual members of the Emma community. It is challenging enough to build the communication needed to create a campus culture hostile to predators and pedophiles. To maintain the confidentiality of information that legally and ethically should be private and confidential is essential to the achievement of this goal. As a community, we cannot be content with the idea that former administrators and faculty didn’t notice enough to intervene at the time, but current administrators have a willingness to release selected aspects of an alumna’s record as it is convenient and beneficial for the School. D. Context The legal context of the Report was somewhat useful. It was important to understand what the adults thought their legal obligation to be. However, there were instances when the Report strayed from chronology into editorial. There was more than one occasion when Smith and Gomez made pronouncements about the professionalism of respondents, which also provided the subtext of the concomitant lack of belief in alumnae statements. The attorneys made their judgments based on a simple conversation with the former teacher or staff member. The chilling effect on survivors who waited for the outcome of the Report to determine whether they would come forward in the future cannot be estimated, but it should be understood there is probable negative impact. The legal context and the cultural context simultaneously applied to the allegations would have been more illuminating than the fragmented analysis used. To best understand the institutional successes and shortcomings of the School, perhaps “context” should have been de-emphasized while the legal obligations of the adults on campus could have been highlighted. As alumnae, the AATF object to characterization of any Emma Willard student, as an over-sexed, promiscuous, seductress who has a hard time telling the truth. That this report allows the adults charged with the awesome responsibility of education and safety to shrug off their failure to act because they only “suspected” bad acts is unacceptable. Legally, ethically, and morally, they could, and should, have done more based solely on a suspicion. When bad actors were left unchecked, the damage to the survivors and their friends who bore witness was tremendous. While the Report is to be a stepping stone to further inquiry, the issues with it must be acknowledged and addressed. While Attorneys Gomez and Smith pledged to “wring the washcloth dry” during their July 28, 2016 webinar with the Emma community, we are far from that point. Any future investigations must utilize a methodology that is transparent, linear, and comprehensive. There are valid concerns raised that this bar has not yet been met by the Report. 18
V. The Future at Emma Emma Willard School confronts the issue of sexual misconduct on its campus while many of its peers are grappling with the legacy of sexual assault as well. The Cozen O’Connor report is a step toward a healing confrontation with the past that the Emma community needs, which should also help us inform and shape our future. As we do so, we should be clear about the severity of the insidious problem we are confronting. According to the Centers for Disease Control 2014 Sexual Violence Fact Sheet (See Appendix II), “7.3% of high school students reported having been forced to have sex. More female (10.5%) than male (4.2%) students reported experiencing forced sex in their lifetimes.” While the statistics about the occurrence of sexual abuse are chilling, the data about the reporting of sexual misconduct is even more sobering. According to the “OneofFourUSA.Org” website, approximately 11% of college aged women who experience sexual assault report it to the police. It is fair to assume that the numbers for high school aged girls would be lower still. If slightly older women do not report, it would be fair to assume that teen aged girls would be even more reticent to come forward. Equipped with this awareness, Emma Willard must do more than simply post resources, the School must find a way to be a resource that an assaulted girl or young woman would trust to act in her best interests, not its own. Ongoing, focused training for faculty, residential faculty, proctors, and peer educators, and the proposed sexual health/ “Healthy Boundaries” peer educators is essential in achieving this goal. If Emma Willard School focuses on operating with the highest integrity and concern for the girls, not only will the culture and the girls benefit, so will the reputation of Emma Willard School. The stated goal of becoming a leader, and potential change agent, for the boarding school community would be met and exceeded.
VI. Final Thoughts We agree with the expressed view of the Board of Trustees and the Emma Willard administration that the events of recent years present a unique opportunity for Emma Willard to take the position of standard-bearer in the fight against rape culture and sexual assault. However, we assert that the board of trustees, as the governance body of the School, does have the authority to create and institute a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard campus. If this policy comes from governance, the Board of Trustees, then there would be an understanding that this policy is now in the bedrock of the School. As a result, students would be further empowered, and therefore unapologetic and unafraid to recognize and report sexual misconduct. When students muster the courage to act, counter to nearly all published statistics about reporting sexual misconduct, the girls should be believed and respected, even while an investigation may be ongoing. Any investigation should focus on the well-being of the student, not whether a scandal might get out. The leadership of School must be aware of the danger in the handling of incidents of sexual misconduct create the optics of administrative and governance focusing on the school, to the detriment of the student. This potential “dollars over daughters” perception damages two of Emma Willard’s priceless intangibles - integrity and Emma community goodwill. As more alumnae read the report, the trend of shock, disgust and anger could potentially continue and grow. Should the School turn a deaf ear to the pain, concerns and questions of the alumnae community, the absence of definitive, measurable, and positive movement from the School’s governance and administration will create damage that the School will be forced to spend a great deal of time and money to mitigate. We should be sending out legions of women leading the fight against rape culture. New policies should EMpower our girls to defend and believe women with confidence and courage. We are at a point where Emma Willard School’s actions must speak louder than words. There are several policy recommendations we offered that are worthy of restatement, but there is one that we will reemphasize here because of its importance to the entire Emma Willard community: the immediate involvement of the Troy Police Department and the Rensselaer County District Attorney. Early involvement of law enforcement professionals presents the following benefits: 1) experience, expertise and training to ask the appropriate questions in a non-triggering fashion; 2) avoidance of conflict of interest; 3) a reliable record; 4) utilization of the expertise for neutral investigation; and 5) prevention of perception of secrecy, cover up, or the enabling of further abuse. If a sexual predator considers applying to Emma Willard School, the AATF encourages the Board of Trustees to create policies that would be implemented by the Head of School and administration to create a severely uninhabitable environment for this individual such that he or she would not even bother to apply. Wellknown, close relationships with the Troy Police and Rensselaer District Attorney would be significant developments toward that end. Sexual misconduct and rape culture are not only about the Emma Willard School community, they are about taking on far larger phenomena currently hurting millions of women, and men, in the world. To make a difference, we must make it our mission to face down the fear of disrupting the status quo, and instead call out injustice whenever and wherever we see it. This matter is a fight against a powerful force, and Emma Willard must be outrageously brave to confront the problems of sexual misconduct and rape culture and lead with integrity. We cannot lead by meekly discussing “inappropriate relationships.” Nor does the excuse of alleged consent and the supposed context of the time provide shelter from the ethical and moral responsibility 21
that rested with the School no matter what the law said â€“ educate the students and protect them from harm. The findings of the external investigation by the attorneys from Cozen Oâ€™Connor, formerly of Pepper Hamilton, did not provide the opportunity for catharsis and bold truth for which many had hoped. Before the School can have reconciliation, there must first be candor in the most blunt and unvarnished form possible. This work has been ongoing for several months â€“ the AATF was formed in August of 2016. The Board has been grappling with this issue, in some manner, for far longer. Yet, we must all recognize that there is much still to be done. The Emma Willard community must make an unwavering commitment to the needed institutional changes. Further, all the stakeholders should feel a united sense of purpose and leadership emanating from the Board of Trustees and administration unmistakably stating that Emma Willard School will do what Madame Emma Hart Willard would have done - be a pioneering advocate for the intellectual and personal empowerment of women, as well as their personal safety. Unchecked sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard campus runs counter to this charge. Emma Willard School must be prominent in the confrontation and dismantling of rape culture, one of the most disempowering aspects of modern society for women. There should be no more victims of this preventable abuse on the Emma Willard campus. The School should do everything it can to make the campus as safe as possible. The AATF hopes that Emma Willard students will have the tools to be safe and continue the fight to keep this new aspect of the mission of Madame Willard alive long after they have left Mt. Ida. Since the issue of sexual misconduct on the Emma Willard School campus sprang to life, or back to life for some, last summer in the media in a flood of publicity, we should consider the words of Justice Louis Brandeis as the School plans a way forward: Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman. We, the members of the Alumnae Advisory Task Force, appreciate this opportunity to serve the School during this pivotal time. We took our charge seriously and with extreme diligence. We value our past with Emma Willard School, therefore we remain committed to the preservation of the very best of this amazing institution for the future. Respectfully submitted, Alumnae Advisory Task Force Kimberly S. Jones, Chair Andrea Hanley, Vice Chair Liliana Mason, Task Force Member
APPENDIX I - JULY LETTER TO CHAIR OF HEAD OF SCHOOL SEARCH COMMITTEE Dr. Groesbeck, Susie Hunter, and the other members of the Head of School Search Committee, and Board of Trustees: We are alumnae and parents of Emma Willard School, diverse in age and background but united in our love and concern for the school we share. We have been deeply saddened and disturbed to hear of the recent revelations of student rape that occurred in 1998. Some of us are hearing of these events for the first time, and are still processing the shock of this information. Unfortunately, others of us are absolutely not surprised by these reports, and distressed that the school has only taken public action now, in the glare of media publicity, when it had so many prior opportunities to take leadership. We are hoping the school seizes this opportunity at long last, both to redress past abuse and inaction, and to prevent future abuse. Many alumnae were aware of multiple instances of ongoing abuse while we were students at Emma Willard. This consisted of far more abuse than was reported in Dr. Groesbeck’s recent letter to the community. In light of recent (and likely forthcoming) allegations, if the school wishes to work proactively to protect its students and uphold its reputation as an educational institution that empowers and nurtures young women, the current administration and the new Head of School must be ready to dramatically change the school’s approach to reports of sexual assault and/or abuse. First, we believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant in this case. In order to regain trust among the extensive Emma Willard community, the school needs to be open and honest about the mistakes that previous administrations have made. Many of us were aware of administrative actions that allowed multiple instances of sexual abuse of students to be hidden and for the victims of that abuse to be punished. Those of us who were not already aware of these actions are now shocked to hear of them. The administration, the Board of Trustees, and the new Head of School should acknowledge these incidents and the harm they caused to the survivors, joining us in grief, sorrow, and commitment to change. Further, the school must demonstrate clearly that it now understands how to honor young women’s voices, and that it has eliminated all policies and practices that may have caused harm or exacerbated harm already done. The results from any external assessments of the school’s sexual assault policies should be released. There must be transparency about the past, and clear standards for the future. Second, as adults, many alumnae are now trying to grapple with what we knew as students, and how it was that none of us recognized the criminality of the “relationships” in which our own friends were victims. As students, we were not given the tools to recognize sexual assault and to feel safe reporting it. Instead, we lived in an atmosphere of secrets, gossip, and victim blaming. Our survivor friends lived in an environment of humiliation and isolation, when they were even allowed to remain at school. Many of
them still consider themselves responsible for their victimization, decades later. None of this should be allowed to happen again. The school has always been capable of instilling and enforcing strict rules with severe consequences. It should prohibit and punish sexual misconduct with equal severity and without exception. We strongly request implementation of new and clear written and spoken rules, procedures, and expectations, to include the following: 1. A required all-school assembly at the start of every academic year in which the school’s policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct are clearly explained, and in which the administration affirms that students will not be punished for reporting misconduct. Orientation for new students should include in-depth, targeted, and tailored discussion of these topics as well. 2. A definition of statutory rape, including an explanation of why, even when it is “consensual,” it is still rape, and the school will treat it as such. Furthermore, even if a student is 18 or older, the same logic applies to relationships between school employees and students, and does not diminish the invalidation of consent, because of the inherently unequal power dynamic between students and employees. The school must state explicitly to students and employees, and demonstrate in its actions, that in any of these “relationships,” the student is not to blame as she cannot be an equal partner in the relationship. 3. All students will be provided with safety and self-esteem education, as relates directly to sexual assault that may occur at Emma Willard, in college, or later in life. Students will learn language and concepts from professional sexual health educators that break down rape culture and provide them with a powerful voice to defend their own sexual safety. 4. A blanket protection for all complainants, immediate suspension and removal from campus of accused employees (or other on-campus adults), and a no-contact/no-retaliation order put in place between the complainant and accused adult. No victim should be forced or encouraged to leave the school, or have her financial aid reduced or removed. The burden of proof is borne by the accused, because they are adults, and we do not believe the burden should be placed on the shoulders of a teenager who is likely a victim of sexual assault. That said, a diligent and timely examination of each case will be provided in the interest of all parties involved. Complainants will be listened to, and heard, without punishment, without re-traumatization, and without regard to the student’s financial standing, academic standing, or family influence. 5. When a student reports being sexually assaulted, the School shall immediately notify law enforcement; arrange for access to emergency medical assistance at a local hospital credentialed to treat survivors of sexual assault and provide forensic services; provide counseling by a qualified professional who is trained in cases of sexual assault against minors, bound to confidentiality standards, and not an employee of the school; and inform 24
the studentâ€™s parents or guardians. The School shall provide ongoing counseling free of charge for student survivors of School-related sexual assault. This counseling shall be provided on-campus or by an off-campus professional of the studentâ€™s choice. 6. Students who are concerned about or witness to the sexual assault of peers will be provided with a standard reporting system, by which they may inform school employees or a dedicated counselor about their knowledge. Any reports received from students in this manner will never be met with punishment, and the identity of any student should remain confidential. These reports should result in heightened scrutiny of the accused employee, including monitoring in-class behavior, social time spent with students, and visitors to the employeeâ€™s on-campus apartment. If necessary, other students may be confidentially interviewed to corroborate the report, again without fear of punishment. 7. The School shall craft, publish, and enforce a protocol by which employees must notify school administration of other employees who have sexually assaulted or harassed a student, and by which administrators shall report these incidents to law enforcement. No employee who makes such a report will be penalized. Students should know that they can speak to any employee and receive help and guidance. And employees should know that they can report sexual misconduct to the administration without repercussions. 8. All employees need to undergo extensive professional training in understanding sexual misconduct, along with how to appropriately handle reports from students and follow appropriate protocol to help the student. Employees also need to understand the severe consequences of engaging in sexual misconduct of any kind. Every School employee must understand and combat rape culture. No School employee should believe that they can successfully skirt these rules. 9. Any employees who do engage in sexual assault will not only be terminated, but the School will not assist them in obtaining future employment. The School will also assist the victim in pressing charges against the employee, with the aim of registering the employee as a sex offender, thus barring them from future employment with children. The employee will not be permitted to visit campus as long as the victim is an enrolled student. 10. Emma Willard shall pay for all psychological and medical treatment for past victims of sexual abuse who choose to come forward. 11. The School will create a formal truth and reconciliation process by which additional survivors of sexual assault at Emma Willard can be heard and made whole. The process will center on the voice and needs of each survivor, with the goal of creating a safe space for survivors. This process should be facilitated by a third party experienced in mediation and dispute resolution. 12. A written policy outlining specific procedures and protocols by which the School will handle student reports of sexual assault, whether perpetrated by employees of the School, by other students, or by persons unrelated to the School. This policy will replace the current Sexual Assault Protocol, which is vague and unspecific as to the actual process by which the School handles reports of sexual assault made by current students.
These changes will all be promoted by a re-examination of how the administration deals with student â€œmisbehavior.â€? The School needs to act in loco parentis in positive as well as negative ways, and foster trust that students can report unsafe situations without causing punishment or expulsion. Toward this end, there needs to be at least one full-time, licensed, and well-trained mental health professional on the staff, who can confidentially support and advise students even about the most taboo subjects. Any student who is suspended or expelled for any reason, regardless of her age, will never be forced to leave campus except into the custody of her parent or guardian. Please take this opportunity of appointing a new Head of School to start fresh and become the school known for honoring young women in mind and body--known not for covering up abuse, but for combatting it strongly and proactively. Silence today sends a chilling message to unspoken victims and denies healing to survivors. It indicates that the school is incapable of preventing future abuse. The process will be uncomfortable for the institution, but can yield massive rewards in terms of alumnae enthusiasm and trust of future parents. Alumnae have offered, and will continue to offer, to support this endeavor, lending our energies, skills, connections, and funds. To this end, at least one alumna practiced with and concerned about sexual safety should be added to the Head of School hiring committee. Emma Willard can become a national advocate protecting victims of sexual abuse. The safety of our daughters and all current and future students depends on your immediate attention to this matter. Signed, 651 Alumnae and Former Students of Emma Willard School
APPENDIX II: CDC 2012 FACT SHEET ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE