Community Message, June 3, 2016

Community Message, June 3, 2016

Dear Hotchkiss Community,

We write to follow up on a letter to the community sent on April 22. We have received a number of supportive and thoughtful responses, and we appreciate the concern expressed since the message was sent.

Sexual misconduct is a very serious matter. It is antithetical to the values of Hotchkiss, and we believe that allegations of sexual misconduct must be investigated thoroughly and carefully. After retaining counsel with regard to the pending lawsuit referenced in our previous letter, we considered engaging an independent investigator to look into allegations of sexual misconduct brought to the School's attention. Because we care deeply about the welfare of our community, including those who may have been affected by misconduct in the past, we concluded it was right to move forward with this process.

On May 3, we selected James Sconzo, a partner at the national law firm of Carlton Fields, who is now in the early stages of his investigation. Mr. Sconzo was chosen after a thorough review, and he comes well recommended, with extensive experience conducting investigations for educational institutions.

We intend to be responsive to the facts as discovered and reported by the independent investigator. We are working to provide all information that he will need or may request from the School. We have also asked Mr. Sconzo to reach out to the Boston Globe, which has contacted the School regarding allegations of sexual misconduct, for more information about these allegations that may aid him in making a thorough investigation. If you have information that may assist him in his work, you can contact Mr. Sconzo at (860) 392-5041or email him at hotchkissinquiry@carltonfields.com.

We are deeply troubled by reports that alumni may have suffered and endured sexual misconduct during their time at Hotchkiss -- and we want to get to the truth about allegations that have been made. It bears repeating that as educators, our goal must always be to create an environment where students can learn and mature into adults safely and with integrity and dignity.

As we have mentioned before, we have in place numerous current safety and support structures that reflect best practices from throughout the independent schools community:
  • We engage our students in ongoing discussions in our curriculum and residential life programs about making good decisions and promoting healthy relationships.
  • We ensure our students are fully aware of our support resources and that they feel comfortable and secure about reaching out for assistance.
  • 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, and recognizing and reporting improper behavior, and we enforce our policies on these topics.
  • We have a mandated responsibility to run background checks on all employees and to investigate all credible allegations and refer suspected cases of sexual misconduct to relevant authorities.
  • We review our practices on an ongoing basis and conduct periodic third-party audits to ensure that we are employing current best practices.
Each and every member of our faculty, staff, and administration is charged with rigorously carrying out his or her responsibility to keep our students safe. 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.

In order to promote a smooth transition from this closing academic year, the incoming Head of School, Craig Bradley, has been apprised of -- and fully supports -- the actions we have outlined in this letter, including moving forward with an independent investigator. Craig has assured us that he shares our conviction that the safety and security of our students must be our top priority.


Sincerely,
Jeannie Weinberg Rose '80, P'18
President, Hotchkiss Board of Trustees


G. Peter O'Neill Jr.
Head of School