Community Message, April 22, 2016
Dear Hotchkiss Community,
I write to update you on a topic of national concern and to communicate the steps we have taken to address it at Hotchkiss. The issue of sexual misconduct in education has been a prominent topic under review at universities, schools, and in the media. Hotchkiss is dedicated to fostering and maintaining a culture where every member of our community understands the boundaries of healthy relationships and acts accordingly, with care and concern for each other. The health and safety of each student entrusted to our care is our highest priority.
As some of you may already know, The Boston Globe is currently investigating sexual misconduct at independent schools over the past 25 years. We recognize the importance of investigative journalism. We know, too, that matters of this nature often involve many sensitive issues, which make the assurance of due process and privacy vitally important.
We anticipate the Globe will soon report on several cases of alleged or confirmed sexual misconduct at a number of our peer schools. Their story may include a reference to Hotchkiss being named in a lawsuit that was filed last year alleging the sexual assault of a former student in the mid-1980s by a former faculty member, now deceased. As soon as we learned of the lawsuit, Jeannie Rose ’80, P’18, President of the Board of Trustees and former Head of School, Kevin Hicks, informed the School community and committed to pursuing a thorough investigation of this matter with seriousness and compassion. The subject matter of that investigation is part of the ongoing litigation that is still in its early stages.
We have committed time and resources to educating the school community about the issues surrounding sexual misconduct. We continue to engage our students in ongoing discussions about making good decisions and promoting healthy relationships. We provide training for faculty and staff members in maintaining proper boundaries with students and colleagues, assuming positive roles in and outside of the classroom, recognizing and reporting improper behavior, and we enforce our policies on these topics. As educators, we have a mandated responsibility to investigate all credible allegations and refer suspected cases of sexual misconduct to relevant authorities. Each and every member of our faculty, staff, and administration is charged with carrying out this responsibility rigorously.
We communicate our community values and regulations annually through the distribution of the Almanac and expect that all students, parents, faculty, and staff members read and familiarize themselves with its contents. A detailed explanation of these clear expectations, including our Code of Ethical Conduct, and information about our Community Conduct Council, can be found in the Community Regulations section of the Almanac.
As educators, our goal must always be to create an environment where students can learn and mature into adults safely with integrity and dignity. Our commitment to this is absolute.
Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or thoughts.
G. Peter O’Neill, Jr.
Head of School