The Hotchkiss School takes seriously its commitment to student safety and well-being

We look to engage our students throughout the year in continual, developmentally appropriate discussions about sound decision-making, sexual health and healthy relationships, and creating an environment of safety and respect. These discussions include creating a full understanding of what constitutes affirmative consent, sexual misconduct and assault, the consequences of such actions, and ways for students to get help and support.

Hotchkiss also has in place numerous policies and programs designed to ensure student safety and well-being that were developed and implemented in consultation with independent professionals and reviewed by third-party experts. In addition, we have engaged RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) to undertake a comprehensive review of the School’s sexual misconduct education and response mechanisms, including existing policies, protocols, and trainings. At the end of its review, RAINN will provide Hotchkiss with an assessment of its current programs and a set of concrete recommendations to ensure that the School meets or exceeds best practices.

To offer feedback or ask questions, please contact Associate Head of School and Dean of Faculty Merrilee Mardon.

Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct

Independent Investigation

In June 2016, we retained a third party to conduct an investigation into reports of sexual misconduct by members of the faculty or staff that occurred at any time in the School’s history. Based on feedback from the alumni community, we retained the law firm of Locke Lord to take over the investigation and build upon the considerable work that had been done to date. The investigation was wholly independent and concluded with the release of a public report on August 17, 2018. 

The independent investigation was led by a Boston-based partner, Allison O’Neil, who has substantial experience in sexual abuse investigations. Ms. O’Neill interviewed more than 150 people and had access to School files, records, and personnel to support her investigation. In addition, she had access to the files of the prior investigator.

Should any other alumni wish to come forward with an additional report of abuse by an adult member of the Hotchkiss community, we have asked that Ms. O'Neil be available in the coming months to receive any such report.  Ms. O'Neil can be reached by telephone at (800) 403-7138 or (617) 239-0729, or by email at hotchkissinvestigation@lockelord.com.

read the Locke Lord report here  

Counseling Support for Alumni Survivors

Hotchkiss has partnered with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) to assist alumni desiring financial assistance and reimbursement for current and/or past therapy costs related to sexual misconduct during their time at the School. Specifically, Hotchkiss will assist alumni with:

  • Current therapy costs: Hotchkiss will reimburse current weekly therapy sessions of up to 90 minutes in length for any treatment recommended by a licensed, qualified mental health professional so long as that treatment appears on RAINN’s list of approved treatment modalities.
  • Past therapy costs: Hotchkiss will reimburse up to $10,000 of past therapy costs for previous therapy sessions of up to 90 minutes in length for any treatment recommended by a licensed, qualified mental health professional so long as that treatment appears on RAINN’s list of approved treatment modalities.

If you have any questions about whether a treatment is approved by RAINN, please contact RAINN directly at the Hotchkiss-specific hot line at (866) 827-4029. Details on how to receive payments for current and/or historic therapy costs will be provided to you by a third-party claims administrator following completion of the intake process with RAINN.

Immediate crisis intervention, information, and resources are available 24/7 through RAINN at (800) 656-4673 or online.rainn.org. RAINN can also provide referrals for support in your area.

Please note that all inquiries and funding requests are anonymous to Hotchkiss.

Further details are provided in an FAQ, which can be accessed here.



Education about Healthy Relationships and Sexual Misconduct

RESOURCES FOR CURRENT PARENTS AND STUDENTS

Our community regulations and expectations of conduct are updated and outlined in the Almanac. These are regularly reviewed with students in advisory meetings and in Class Meetings. While we encourage the postponement of sexual intimacy, we believe it's essential to talk about Connecticut state law regarding the age of consent and Hotchkiss's expectations regarding consent and sexual misconduct.

If a student is a victim of sexual assault or if a student is unsure if what they experienced was sexual assault, they should contact Associate Head of School Merrilee Mardon (860-435-3185) or call or visit the Health Center (860-435-3226).

To visit the Campus Safety and Security page, click here.

Faculty and Staff Training

Below are ways we train our current faculty and staff members.

  • All new faculty and staff members receive training about their obligation under Connecticut law to report when they suspect or believe that a child under 18 has been abused, neglected, or placed in imminent risk of serious harm.
  • The School's Community Conduct Council (Almanac, page 50) also regularly reviews policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct, and makes recommendations for faculty training and to improve our response to incidents.
  • Faculty members have been instructed to relay swiftly any concerns, knowledge, or suspicions relevant to student safety to the Dean on Duty and the Dean of Students, who will in turn notify the local authorities, as needed.
  • All faculty and staff members review and sign the Code of Ethical Conduct for Employees in Relation to Students (Almanac, page 49). All reports of alleged violation are reviewed and responded to by the Community Conduct Council (CCC).

Resources for Parents

Parents and families are students' most important guides. We encourage all parents to have conversations about healthy relationships with your students.

Read information regarding what constitutes statutory rape and consent in Connecticut. We encourage all parents to be aware of the laws in Connecticut.

Here are three great resources for parents from Dr. Richard Weissbourd at Harvard's Making Caring Common Project: Tips for Parents, Guiding Teens and Young Adults in Developing Healthy Romantic Relationships, and Reducing and Preventing Misogyny and Sexual Harassment Among Teens and Young Adults.

Steps We Take To Educate Students

  • In Class Meetings during the fall, we will explain the laws of the State of Connecticut regarding consensual sexual activity. These meetings will include discussions about what sexual consent and statutory rape mean.
  • Also in Class Meetings, students will be reminded that as a matter of policy and prudence, we often notify parents when we encounter students who may have had sexual contact, and we always notify parents if the consensual activity trips the state's three-year limitation and is considered statutory rape in the state of Connecticut. The definitions can seem complicated based on the ages of the people involved. The most relevant point is that the State's three-year limitation applies when the younger person is 13-15 years old and the older person is more than three years older. If the person is under 13, there are different criminal statutes.
  • We would like our students to understand that they -- especially when one student is more than three years older -- are at risk of being reported to local authorities for criminal prosecution if the encounter meets a definition of statutory rape; sometimes the School may act as the reporter, even if the actions were consensual. The reporter may also be the younger student or the younger student's parents.
  • We invite speakers with training and specialties in adolescent behaviors to come to discuss topic and encourage greater understanding. Speakers have included: Cindy Pierce, noted specialist in human sexuality; Hakeem Rahim on mental health awareness, depression, and suicide prevention; Matt Bellace on the prevention of substance abuse; and Jennifer Finney Boylan, noted speaker on issues of LGBTQ awareness; and health education consultant, Justine Fonte, who addresses healthy decision making and consent.
  • Through Human Development classes, lower mids will also learn about bystander training, and other ways to help keep themselves and their friends safe.

Policies and Community Regulations

Our Community Regulations are outlined in the Almanac. You can find the following regulations and policies on these pages:

  • Sexual Misconduct Statement, page 63
  • Community Regulation, Major Offense: Sexual Misconduct, page 41
  • Commitment to Ethical Conduct, page 3
  • Code of Ethical Conduct and Community Conduct Council, page 49
  • General Harassment Policy, including sexual harassment, page 61