July 25, 2016
To the Emma Willard Community-
Thank you to the many alumnae who have signed letters to me and to the school administration regarding reports of past incidents of inappropriate relationships between adults and students at the school.
I hear pain and sorrow from women who were the victims of sexual abuse while under the school's care. I hear compassion for Kat and her fellow survivors. I hear anger that this ever happened, and that it has gone unreported and unacknowledged for too long. I hear cynicism that because the school failed in the past, we cannot ever get it right. I hear remorse that we did not help our vulnerable classmates.
At times the voices have been overwhelming. I add another voice to the clamor for action: Resolve.
You have called for a dramatic change in how Emma Willard addresses this issue on our campus today, how we face it in our narrative history, and how we prepare our current and future students for a world in which females are too often the targets of sexual abuse. We have been asked to assess and rewrite our programming and policies. More importantly, we have been challenged to frame a dialogue that will ultimately bring change to the culture of our school, to our peer institutions and to secondary schools.
We begin with our first step; we own this.
Sexual abuse is part of our history. We will uncover the secrets and unflinchingly share the facts with our community. We will expose bad practices and unenforced policies. We commit to transparency.
We believe in the investigative process. We expect the work by Leslie Gomez and Gina Smith to be professional, scrupulous, deliberate and fair. We will accept nothing less.
Our girls deserve robust prevention education to insure a safer campus now, and to prepare them for the world beyond our grey walls. With the help of organizations dedicated to abuse prevention, education and practice, we can show our students what is safe and what is not, how to recognize predatory behavior, when to ask for help and when to report concerns. We are seeking the expertise of professionals outside our community, to train us. Our policies have to be clear and visible and enforced. We have to make sure every student, faculty, staff and administration member knows how and to whom to report sexual abuse or assaults. The process has to be safe, confidential and above all, supportive of the victim. We commit to working with alumnae, experts, students, and parents to cultivate a culture that keeps our girls safe, informed and aware.
We as a board and an administration will inform you in the coming weeks what actions are underway. We will announce our schedule of programming, events and lectures that support our commitment to bolstering our policies and enriching our curriculum to reinforce our understanding of this issue.
We recognize this will take time. Our actions are deliberate and broad, not casual or occasional. We commit to this for the long haul.
Elisabeth Allen LeFort '72
Chair of the Board of Trustees