Student Safety in Schools, a National Conversation

May 3, 2016

We sent out a letter to the community last week regarding student safety as it related to sexual misconduct in schools. I talked to students about the letter the next day at assembly. The text below is from that assembly.

Our priorities are simple: student safety, care for victims, and transparency.

Matt

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Good morning.

It’s hard to believe how the year races by and that we’ve arrived at the spring midterm. I am so proud of what you’ve accomplished this year as individuals and as a community. So, this also means we’re about five weeks away from graduation; Seniors, how are you doing? I know that you’ll finish strong. We’re proud of you.

I’d like to talk with you this morning about a letter I sent to parents and alumni yesterday. At the beginning of the year I talked to you about news stories of sexual misconduct in schools. Given this national conversation, we decided to send a letter to the community expressing our values. The letter is not a response to any Gould events or information. Furthermore, it is my personal faith in this caring community and its values that gave me the confidence to send this message.

I’m going to read the letter to you now. After this assembly, you’ll go to advisory where you can ask questions and discuss what we’re talking about now. Of course, feel free to stop by and see me with any questions or concerns

Here’s the letter:

Dear Gould Community,

Many of you may know that there have been news stories recently about cases of sexual misconduct at private schools. While Gould is not a subject of these articles or any actions, this is an important public conversation for all families and educators.

It is beyond reproach that any student should suffer as a result of an adult who manipulated their trust. I applaud those victims who have spoken out as well as the schools who have supported them. It is also heartbreaking to think of victims who suffer alone or who feel isolated from the support of their community. That sexual misconduct continues to happen is unforgivable. We must remain vigilant to protect our children.

At Gould, student safety is our number one priority and any allegations of sexual misconduct will be reported to the authorities without hesitation. Know that our door is always open to any student, past or present, who has ever experienced sexual misconduct at Gould. If you have information to share, please contact me, our Associate Head of School Pat Donovan, or our Dean of Students Denise Manning.

We work hard to be worthy of the trust families have placed in us and are constantly looking for ways to improve, to be an exemplar in all respects. Our efforts moving forward are threefold. We are reviewing our Community Guide and Faculty Handbook to ensure that our policies and procedures are updated and thorough, we are developing a health and wellness curriculum for students, and we are identifying additional recurring training and education opportunities for faculty and students.

Tomorrow morning, I will address the student body to share this message. Afterward, students and advisors will meet to discuss this letter, why we sent it, and to reiterate our values and commitment to their safety.

I am proud of the happy and healthy community created by our students, parents, faculty, and staff. Please join me in this ongoing and important discussion. I welcome your calls and emails as we continue to take whatever steps we can to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of all of our students.

So, that’s what we sent yesterday.

We sent this letter for the sake of being true to our values and supporting anyone who may have suffered. We see this as a time to speak, not to remain silent. Secrets can destroy safety, happiness, and community.

And we want you to know that nothing is more important to us than your safety, health, and happiness.

Let’s finish this year strong. Continue to respect yourselves and to take care of each other. You are each precious to us and your families.

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