April 27, 2018
We write today with difficult news. We recently received notifications from investigations conducted at two other schools, as well as direct disclosures from two alumni, alleging that four different educators employed by Park in the 1970s and early 1980s may have engaged in inappropriate behavior, some of which was sexual in
nature, with students in high school.
Two of the educators named in these complaints are deceased. We do not believe the other two are still teaching.
In speaking with the alumni who shared their stories, we quickly came to understand how profoundly the violations of trust that they experienced at Park affected them. As educators, trustees, and parents who understand the importance that trust plays in building authentic and appropriate relationships with students, we were incredibly sad and terribly sorry for their experiences, and wish to affirm that publicly. We are grateful for their courage in sharing their concerns and determined to treat them sensitively and appropriately.
We take such matters seriously and therefore engaged legal counsel, Hodgson Russ LLP, to interview the alumni who reported their concerns. As a result, the board voted unanimously to release this letter and share the allegations and our intentions to respond fully and transparently to them.
Park’s journey in spotlighting this chapter of our history has and will continue to evolve, as it has for dozens of other independent schools across the country. To create an accurate reflection of our history, a procedure has been put in place, guided by best practices, for systematically responding to reports of historic incidents. These were developed over the last two years by the New York State Association of Independent Schools and the National Association of Independent Schools.
To oversee this procedure, Park created a board committee – whose members signed this letter – that will work with the school’s legal counsel, Julia M. Hilliker of Hodgson Russ, to investigate these and any other allegations of educator misconduct. The allegations we received raise concerns that there may be other incidents that occurred of which we are not aware. To that end, concerned alumni who wish to share their experience at Park regarding educator misconduct should contact Ms. Hilliker directly at 716.848.1547 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our next steps beyond this information-gathering stage will be determined once a clearer understanding of this aspect of our history develops. In making these determinations, we will pay attention to the interests of alumni who were affected by misconduct, as well as to Park’s core values of Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, and Kindness. To assure continuity and accountability, this responsibility to do what’s right and follow best practices is being shared with current and future leaders of Park’s board and administration.
For families of current students, please know that the faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees of Park believe that we have no greater responsibility than to keep our students safe and healthy. To specifically address and prevent any concerns regarding educator misconduct, in 2015 Park created a code of conduct that all employees are expected to adhere to as a condition of employment.
All Park employees receive annual training about the school’s 2015 code of conduct, as well as New York State Education and Social Services laws, which designate teachers as mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. In this training, we explicitly include school employees and volunteers on the list of potential abusers who must be reported, which exceeds the law’s current requirements.
These types of policies, procedures, and prescribed responses speak to how much has changed for the better in our culture and our schools over the last 40 years. They also serve to verify the mechanisms that safeguard the trust that students and families invest in us. The current professional community at Park holds this trust sacred and inviolate, and assumes that most of our forbearers did as well.
That said, we also fully understand and sincerely regret the fact that the actions of a few of our predecessors negatively impacted the lives of former students and undermined the trust that some of our alumni should have in their school. Moving forward, we are committed to maintaining a vibrant and healthy community for our current students and rebuilding the trust of those former students affected by these darker aspects of our shared history.
Christopher J. Lauricella
Head of School
Head of School-Elect
David G. Brock
Board Vice President