A Focus on the Wellbeing of Students
Our highest priority at Hotchkiss is ensuring the safety and well-being of every student in our care. We believe that a healthy and inclusive learning community nourishes students physically, emotionally, and intellectually; fosters joy in learning and living with others; and ensures that all feel safe, seen, and supported.
Hotchkiss has numerous policies and programs in place designed to ensure student safety and well-being. These have been developed and implemented in consultation with independent professionals and reviewed by third-party experts. We maintain our commitment to creating an environment of safety and respect.
Students may bring complaints regarding violations of the School’s Code of Ethical Conduct, any form of bias, bullying, sexual or other misconduct, and other forms of harassment to any trusted adult.
A full listing of guidelines for students is provided in the Almanac, which is updated annually.
Faculty, staff, Health Center employees, and students all participate in a variety of training annually, including supplemental training for student proctors. Topics for adults include boundary training on adult-student relationships and support for students with respect to their gender identity or expression, among others. Training for student proctors includes programs focused on promoting healthy relationships, bystander intervention, and toxicity and violence in teen dating relationships.
All students participate in:
The Human Development (HD) program: These full-year courses meet once per week and explore health and wellness topics at three different levels. In the prep (9th grade) year, the HD curriculum supports preps' transition to Hotchkiss and builds skills in social emotional learning. Lower mids (10th grade) explore topics such as personal and social identity, physical wellness and emotional health, drugs and alcohol, relationships and sexuality. In addition, an optional program for seniors is being offered that is designed to help seniors prepare for their transition to college.
Consent talks: The sexual misconduct prevention and response coordinator and DEI director conduct these talks with each grade. Content includes safe reporting structures; the Community Conduct Council (CCC); age of consent; the role of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF); and other relevant topics.
Advisory Committee for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education: The SMPE Advisory Committee comprises Hotchkiss alumni, experts in the field of sexual abuse and prevention, representatives from the Board of Trustees, and current Hotchkiss faculty who serve as liaisons. The committee provides expertise with respect to sexual misconduct education, awareness, and training practices; identifying types of relationships, residential realities, and patterns of behavior unique to a boarding school environment that call for particular awareness of healthy boundaries; and providing historical context and experience with past issues of sexual misconduct on campus in order to inform current policies and practices.
This organization uses scientifically designed surveys to assess student wellness. Hotchkiss partners with Authentic Connections to deliver a climate survey to students that anonymously captures responses spanning emotional well-being, academic well-being, substance use or abuse, and discrimination, among others. Initiated in the fall of 2020.
View the Family Weekend 2021 webinar (Hotchkiss portal login is required).
Hotchkiss is a member school of Learning Courage, an organization dedicated to reducing incidents of sexual misconduct in schools and improving the responses of schools. Learning Courage is currently finalizing a school assessment that has included interviewing students, faculty members, and senior administrators with a focus on identifying needs and gaps. The organization will conduct an annual review and will work with the School on a 3-5 year action plan.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) undertook a comprehensive review of the School’s sexual misconduct education and response mechanisms, including existing policies, protocols, and trainings. The review was conducted in 2018-19. An executive summary is available here.
Employee background screening
Screening was enhanced in 2017 to include a finger-print based FBI criminal history check, Department of Children and Families (CT DCF) screening, and past employer screening.
Employee and adult expectations
Published in the Employee Handbook, expectations for all faculty, staff, and adult community members are outlined, including the duty of care for students.
Code of Ethical Conduct
Published in the Almanac, this code provides guidance to all members of The Hotchkiss School community regarding appropriate interactions among students and between adults and students.
Mandated reporter training
All new employees participate in training upon hire on the requirement to report if they suspect or believe that a student has been abused, neglected or is placed in imminent risk of serious harm. All employees retrain at least every three years.
Adult reporting mechanisms
Employees who observe or suspect behavior that does not conform to the School’s requirements have multiple means of reporting, including contacting Human Resources, a member of the Community Conduct Council, or a third party reporting service such as Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Bias Incident Reporting Form - for use by students
The form is posted on a site accessible to all members of the Hotchkiss community and is available for reporting incidents of bias of any form. The form has and continues to be used by students, indicating a growing level of comfort among students in surfacing experiences of bias.
Community Conduct Council (CCC): Membership includes senior administrators trained to fairly and quickly address complaints pertaining to sexual harassment or misconduct and to violations of the School’s Code of Ethical Conduct. In accordance with Connecticut law, the CCC is required to report any suspected instances of abuse, neglect, or sexual misconduct to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Discipline Committee (DC): The Discipline Committee (DC) comprises students who have been elected by their peers and faculty members. The committee interviews students and others to review cases, listens to the personal accounts of those involved, and determines appropriate sanctions if School rules have been violated. Disciplinary responses include: no action; a letter of censure; a warning placed in the student’s official School record; general probation for the remainder of the school year; and dismissal.
Wellness Committee: The wellness committee is chaired by the director of student wellness. Membership includes senior administrators representing all aspects of the school. The committee focuses on ways we can promote and support student wellness, as well as bringing wellness focused programming to campus. Additionally, the committee is also guided by the student wellness council, which meets bi-monthly to discuss student wellness and to create programming for students.
A selection of campus speakers over the past several years:
Sexual safety and healthy relationships
- Dr. Lisa Damour, an expert in adolescence
- Katie Koestner, director of Take Back the Night Foundation
- Cindy Pierce, a leading social sexuality educator, on healthy sexual behavior and choices
- Justine Fonte, intersectional health education
- Al Vernacchio, sexuality education coordinator
Substance use and mental health
- Hakeem Rahim, mental health awareness, depression, and suicide prevention
- Matt Bellace, Ph.D., insightful, science-based, humorous approach to substance abuse prevention and mental health awareness
- Nate Harmon, navigating adversity, addiction, and mental health
Gender and identity
John Amaechi, former NBA player and organizational psychologist inspiring change
Alex Myers, author and transgender advocate
Jennifer Finney Boylan, transgender author and advocate for human rights
Anti-Defamation League, The Truth About Hate
Dr. Zachary McClain: adolescent disordered eating with an emphasis on the student-athlete
Michelle Sisk, RD: fueling body and mind
Dr. Joyce Faraj: timely topics in nutrition