Letter to the Emma Willard Community
From Elisabeth Allen LeFort, Chair, Board of Trustees of
Emma Willard School
July 8, 2016
Dear Members of the Emma Willard School Community,
I'm writing to you today to follow up on earlier messages from the school about allegations of sexual abuse of a student here in 1998 by a former faculty member.
I am an Emma alumna. I am a member of this community, which is defined by our collective experiences here. These events from the past affect me personally and deeply.
Over the past few weeks, we on the Board have been asked repeatedly what we are doing about the allegations. Many of our alumnae, our current students, our faculty, parents and our loyal friends have asked for complete details and for more information about the steps we are taking.
We understand why this is so, that such demands will likely continue until there is a complete public accounting in this matter and any other allegations we may receive.
Until we were informed in late April by an attorney for the survivor, no member of the current Board or the current administration had heard of this. Since then, the school has hired Leslie Gomez and Gina Smith of Pepper Hamilton LLC in Philadelphia, to investigate this and any other allegations as they are brought forward by survivors. Leslie and Gina are both former prosecutors, but today they neither prosecute nor defend. They investigate.
We have asked for all survivors to come forward with their information on this or any other incidents, so that the narrative that emerges is complete, encompassing and accurate. We promise to make it safe for all survivors to tell their story. We protect their honesty with understanding and, if they request, confidentiality. We ask for your patience, recognizing that this investigative process will take time. We know this may not be a welcome answer, but it is the one we feel compelled to give presently if we are to treat every survivor with sensitivity and care. We will all find out what was done right, and what was done wrong.
On campus, we are upping our efforts. Yes, our current policies and procedures are posted on our website, but that does not answer the question of whether those policies are enforced today, whether our campus is safe today.
A number of alums have come forward to offer their expertise in this area, and we gratefully accept it. We are forming an alumnae group who will be tasked with evaluating our current system of prevention and education about sexual abuse, and providing recommendations to the board.
In closing, we want to reiterate that we are deeply, deeply sorry that any in our community were hurt. We apologize to each of you personally and we promise you and all your classmates that we will never stop our efforts to end sexual abuse at Emma Willard.