Choate Rosemary Hall Logo
September 5, 2017

 

Dear Members of the Choate Rosemary Hall Community,

 

As our School's 128th year begins, we are eager to welcome students and families, both new and returning, to campus. The beginning of every new year comes with energy and excitement; this year, we are particularly excited to launch our new daily schedule and enjoy our first full year in St. John Hall.

 

Importantly, as we open this new year, we remain committed to focusing our energy on addressing student safety and following up on the promises we made to the community last year. We would like to take the time now to share an update on our work.

 

First and foremost, we again want to thank and honor all who came forward and bravely shared their stories, whether with Ms. Kestenbaum during her investigation or with the School following the release of the report. We are indebted to you for your courage and strength.

 

We are also grateful to everyone who, since the release of the report, has reached out to offer their thoughts, concerns, and criticisms and to ask probing questions. All of the feedback we have received has been immensely helpful to the Board and the administrative team as we continue our efforts to ensure the safety of our students and the wellness of our community.

 

As pledged in our April 13, 2017 letter, the School has taken steps to be at the forefront of the standard of care in preventing and addressing sexual misconduct. The following are among the steps we have taken in recent months.

 

  • Ongoing Diligence and Awareness – We have continued our vigilance in the wake of the Kestenbaum Report regarding any reports of adult misconduct toward students. To that end, we retained the former U.S. Attorney for the State of Connecticut, Stan Twardy, and his Connecticut-based law firm, Day Pitney, to investigate any reports of adult misconduct that have been brought to the School's attention following the release of the Kestenbaum Report. Since that time, the School has received reports concerning past and current faculty members. We asked Day Pitney to prioritize its investigation into the few reports of boundary crossing involving current members of the faculty. All of these reports concern boundary crossing behavior that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s; the School has not received any more recent allegations concerning any current faculty members. Based on the reports, Day Pitney did not believe that any of the current faculty members needed to be restricted from their duties while it pursued its investigations. Day Pitney has now reported back to Choate that it "has conducted its investigation into allegations against current faculty and, based on evidence developed to date, Day Pitney has found no basis to take any action against any current faculty member." Day Pitney reached this conclusion based on the lack of corroborating evidence and the absence of additional allegations against these faculty members. Regarding allegations against former faculty, we have now reached out to the alumni who reported instances of sexual misconduct so that Day Pitney can conduct follow-on investigations. Those investigations are ongoing, and we will update you when they are complete.
  • Sexual Misconduct Policy – Choate has updated its sexual misconduct policies and published them as a single document for students, faculty, and staff. While the issue of sexual misconduct and its clear prohibition have long been a feature of our existing faculty/staff and student handbooks, our revisions reflect recommendations we received from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) to improve communication of and access to our policies. RAINN recommended further clarification and codification of policies, publishing the document, and sharing it with our entire community. The revisions include detailed sections on prevention efforts, definitions of misconduct, procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating misconduct, and victim support services. In order to ensure that our policy continues to reflect best practices, the School has established a Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee to oversee and recommend any needed revisions. The policy also connects any reporting student with an on-campus victim advocate, who, together with the Wellness Coordinator (see below), will ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response and round-the-clock advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault.
  • Wellness Coordinator – We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Holly Hinderlie, a former Director of Counseling at the Maret School with considerable experience and expertise, to the newly-established Wellness Coordinator position. The Coordinator is charged with overseeing the School's sexual misconduct prevention and response efforts, including education and awareness. Among other responsibilities, the Coordinator will be the main point of contact for all training, coordination with victim advocacy services, and reporting to proper authorities.
  • Additional Training – Choate remains committed to providing ongoing training to all members of our community about sexual misconduct prevention and response. We have expanded existing training opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. In addition to age-appropriate sessions for students about consent, healthy relationships, and reporting resources, faculty and staff receive annual training on mandatory reporting, proper boundaries, and victim-centered response to reports of sexual misconduct. Choate has brought experts to campus on multiple occasions to provide this training to our community, and these practices will continue.
  • Therapy Fund – Choate continues to partner with RAINN to provide a therapy fund to assist alumni who experienced adult sexual misconduct. The fund both offers access to immediate crisis counseling and helps pay for current therapy needs. Alumni who wish to learn more can call RAINN's Choate-specific confidential line at (888) 227-0498.

 

We have updated the "Community Wellness & Resources" page of our website to serve as a central point of reference. There, you can find the complete Sexual Misconduct Policy, a comprehensive list of our actions taken since the release of the Kestenbaum Report, links to all of our letters to the community related to these issues, and clearly delineated resources and information for anyone wishing to make a report of sexual misconduct. We encourage you to visit this page.

 

We recognize that although many steps have been taken, our work is not done. If any member of the community has anything to share with the School regarding a recent incident, please contact Holly Hinderlie at (203) 697-2374 or hhinderlie@choate.edu; alumni reporting historical conduct may continue to contact Kathleen Lyons Wallace at (203) 697-2496 or klw@choate.edu, who will share the information with the investigators at Day Pitney. Choate remains unwavering in our commitment to maintaining a safe community, including diligent efforts to prevent sexual misconduct and provide compassionate support for survivors.

 

Sincerely,

Alex Curtis

Michael J. Carr '76

Chair, Board of Trustees

 
Alex Curtis

Alex Curtis

Head of School

 
 
 
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CHOATE ROSEMARY HALL | 333 Christian Street | Wallingford, CT 06492

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