Annual Letter to Parents, Sept. 22, 2017

September 22, 2017

Dear Hotchkiss Families,

We hope the year is off to a good start for all of your students. We prefer the campus when they are here! We are fueled by their energy, good humor, and eagerness to learn and try new things.

We take seriously our commitment to their safety and well-being. For this reason, we look to engage our students throughout the year in continual, developmentally appropriate discussions about sound decision-making, sexual health, sexual consent, and safety. 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.

As we do each fall, we are writing to you to keep you apprised of how we approach these topics with our students, so that you as a parent or guardian can talk to your student as you feel appropriate.

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

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.
Here are other 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 have invited Cindy Pierce, author of Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World, to return as the lower-mid Human Development speaker in January. Cindy was on campus in 2014 and 2017, and during the summer of 2016 to address the annual conference of the Independent School Gender Project. She has recently been to Exeter, Groton, and Bowdoin, and we look forward to welcoming her back.
  • We will welcome back health education consultant, Justine Fonte, who will also address the lower mids in February regarding healthy decision making and consent.
  • Upper mids and seniors are also invited to these presentations.
  • Through their Human Development classes, lower mids will also learn about bystander training, and other ways to help keep themselves and their friends safe.
Here is the link to our own guidance for our students outlining what to do if a student is a victim of sexual assault, or if a student is unsure if what they experienced was sexual assault. Additionally, we continue to train our faculty and staff members regarding the following:
  • 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 49) 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 told that all concerns, knowledge, or suspicions relevant to student safety should be swiftly relayed 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).
We welcome your perspectives and suggestions to support this work. Please don't hesitate to be in touch with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

E. Quincy McLaughlin, Dean of Student Well-being
Liz Droz, Dean of Students
Christy Cooper, Dean of the Class of 2018
Marc Dittmer, Dean of the Class of 2019
Amanda McClure, Dean of the Class of 2020
Nora Yasumura, Prep Class Dean