With the end of the school year approaching and Reunion Weekend following soon thereafter, we wanted to provide a status report on the independent investigation that the School has commissioned to examine allegations of sexual misconduct brought to the School's attention or presented directly to the independent investigator.
The lead investigator, James Sconzo of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, LLP, began his work last May. On June 3, 2016, we provided his contact details to the broader Hotchkiss community (including all alumni) so that individuals who might have relevant information could speak to him directly and confidentially, and he has spent the past year interviewing alumni as well as current and former faculty members and staff, reviewing files, and speaking with local authorities where pertinent. Because we have not yet received any results of Mr. Sconzo's investigation, we cannot currently provide further details about his findings to date; however, we continue to encourage anyone who was subjected to sexual misconduct while at Hotchkiss or may have pertinent information to contact Mr. Sconzo at (860) 392-5041 or Ms. Jillian Orticelli at (860) 392-5055 or email them at email@example.com.
We believe that allegations of sexual misconduct must be investigated thoroughly and carefully, and we assure you that the School will be responsive to the facts as discovered and reported by Mr. Sconzo. We intend to disclose findings from his investigation to the community upon its completion, and we will be guided by criteria for disclosure based upon the principles of justice and equity.
Educational institutions across the country, including Hotchkiss and many of our peer schools, are coming to terms with the reality that in past decades some students were subjected to abuse by teachers and staff. As painful as this reckoning is, those who were harmed are owed no less. It is not surprising, then, that soul-searching conversations are taking place among educators, alumni, and parents at their schools' gatherings and in private settings, as well as on social media.
School communities are also seeking assurances that students today are safe from abuse by those who are charged with the responsibility to protect and educate them. They want to know that the boundaries between teacher and student are clear, and that those who violate them are quickly identified, disciplined, reported, and not quietly sent away. Hotchkiss takes these obligations very seriously and maintains a comprehensive set of programs and procedures to protect students and promote safety and wellness.
In that context, we would like to extend an invitation to alumni who will be on campus for Reunion Weekend to attend a discussion about the School's current approaches to student safety. It will be held on Saturday, June 17th from 2 to 3 p.m.. David Wolowitz, a nationally recognized school safety expert, and Head of School Craig Bradley will lead the discussion. Mr. Wolowitz has assessed Hotchkiss's policies and protocols -- on paper and in practice -- and regularly conducts on-campus sexual misconduct awareness and prevention training, including addressing boundary issues, at which attendance is required for all Hotchkiss faculty and staff.
For those who will not be attending this year's Reunion Weekend, please see below a summary of our current safety and support structures that reflectbest practices from throughout the independent schools' community. Our full policies, protocols, and resources are posted on the Hotchkiss web site and can be found here
Summary of Hotchkiss Safety and Support Policies and Protocols
- 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 also run background checks on all non-employee adults who reside in on-campus housing and require them to comply with boundary policies.
- We review our practices on an ongoing basis and conduct periodic third-party audits to ensure that we are employing current best practices.
The updated information about our Code of Ethical Conduct and Community Conduct Council can be found here
Our goal must -- and will always -- be to create an environment in which students can learn and mature into adults safely and with integrity and dignity, and in which each member of our faculty, staff, and administration is charged with rigorously carrying out his or her responsibility to support our students and to keep them safe.