October 11, 2016

 

Dear Members of the Choate Rosemary Hall Community,

 

We write to announce several important action items approved on Friday, October 7, 2016 by the Choate Rosemary Hall Board of Trustees as part of the School's comprehensive plan to address reports of adult sexual misconduct against students.

 

As you know, School leadership - trustees, administration, faculty, and staff - have spent focused time discussing the topic of appropriate boundaries between adults and students. These conversations have also encompassed the broader issues of how people should treat each other, what expectations and standards we should hold ourselves to in a boarding school, and our duty to educate our students about those standards and expectations for both their time at Choate and their journeys into adulthood. Our Statement of Expectations continues to guide us in these important conversations, which have been extended by recent media reports about educator sexual misconduct at Choate and peer schools.  
 
Choate takes seriously its duty to ensure the safety of students and to take swift and decisive action if ever that safety is compromised. We are deeply saddened by the report of faculty misconduct we received from a 1992 alumna. Although the Boston Globe article about this alumna's experience reported one improper relationship, she has made us aware that another former teacher had an improper relationship with her; both faculty members left the School in the early 1990s. We have also received correspondence from alumni concerned about these and other reports. The School is committed to learning from its past as it looks to continually strengthen Choate for the future.  
 
The Board has prioritized three interrelated goals: our desire to do the right thing for our alumni and the School, our commitment to updating our policies and practices continually to ensure the safest possible environment for our school community now and in the future, and our charge as a Board of Trustees to act at all times in the best interest of Choate Rosemary Hall. We share these action items with confidence that they will serve the School well and help move us forward with a better understanding of our past and greater insight for our future.  
 
1. Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling LLP will serve as an independent investigator into reports of adult sexual misconduct with students at Choate Rosemary Hall, The Choate School, and Rosemary Hall.  
 
As you know from previous communications, the School has urged anyone with information to share about adult sexual misconduct with students at Choate to come forward, either to Kathleen Lyons Wallace or the Hon. Richard Holwell. Many thanks to Ms. Wallace and Judge Holwell for their help in this work.  
 
The Board has now decided to appoint an independent investigator to build upon the work previously conducted. Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling LLP will investigate the specific reports recently received by the School, receive and investigate any new reports of adult sexual misconduct against any student by Choate faculty or staff, review records of misconduct previously reported to the School, and do additional investigation or follow-up as Ms. Kestenbaum decides is warranted. Ms. Kestenbaum will have full access to School files, records, and personnel in order to support her investigation. 
 
Ms. Kestenbaum has more than twenty-five years of experience as an investigative attorney. For nearly ten years, she served as a federal criminal prosecutor with the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, an arm of the Department of Justice, and for the past twelve years she has been a partner at Covington. Ms. Kestenbaum has not worked previously for the School, has no existing connections to the School, and will not do any other work for the School for a number of years after the end of this engagement. 
 
We expect that Ms. Kestenbaum's investigation will take several months. The School will make Ms. Kestenbaum's complete report available to alumni and current members of the Choate community. No alumni or student names will be included in this report without the individual's express permission.
 
We strongly encourage anyone with possible knowledge of sexual misconduct by faculty or staff at Choate to contact Nancy Kestenbaum at choateinvestigation@cov.com or (202) 662-6945 at their earliest possible convenience. The identity of anyone who reports information to Ms. Kestenbaum will be handled as confidentially as the reporter wishes, and will not be shared in her final report or anywhere else without the reporter's consent, except in situations where a report to government authorities is mandated by law or where, in Ms. Kestenbaum's judgment, a report should be made to those authorities to protect a minor from harm.  
 
2. Immediate crisis counseling and funded therapy support are available to alumni who seek it because of adult misconduct they experienced while students at the School. 
 
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) - one of the country's leading providers of sexual assault services whose experts take a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to support those who need its services - is available to assist our alumni in two ways. First, RAINN is available for immediate crisis counseling at any time to alumni who need it as a result of adult sexual misconduct they experienced while students at the School. Alternatively, RAINN can provide alumni a referral to a counselor or therapist in the alum's local area. RAINN can be reached at (800) 656-4673 or www.online.rainn.org.  
 
Second, RAINN will assist alumni who wish to access a therapy fund that has been established to support alumni who want help paying for current therapy needed because of adult sexual misconduct they experienced during their time at Choate, whether or not they wish to make a formal report of that misconduct. Alumni who wish to access this fund or learn more about it should call RAINN's Choate-specific line at (888) 227-0498. After confirming alumni status and a therapy plan, RAINN will refer callers to a third-party administrator for payment of current therapy bills to maintain confidentiality.  
 
3. RAINN will provide comprehensive sexual assault prevention and response training and will review related School policies, procedures, and practices.  
 
RAINN's nationally recognized team of experts will provide important prevention and response training to Choate's faculty and staff. Also, RAINN will review Choate's existing policies and practices regarding sexual or other misconduct from both a clinical and legal perspective, building upon the foundation already in place at Choate. We will update you again after this review is complete. 
 
We hope these action steps both strengthen Choate for the future and reflect the School's genuine commitment to examine its history and culture with an eye toward supporting anyone who may have been harmed in the School's past and employing the strongest measures possible to prevent future harm.  
 
Thank you for your continued support of Choate Rosemary Hall and its mission.
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Michael J. Carr '76

Chairman, Board of Trustees

 
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Alex Curtis

Headmaster

CHOATE ROSEMARY HALL
333 Christian Street
Wallingford, CT 06492

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