There is much in the news about independent schools these days, and I write to share some of my thoughts about the current landscape. The recent stories in the New York Times, The Boston Globe, and AP wire services about alleged sexual misconduct by employees at several boarding schools are appropriately generating significant interest. An anticipated article, or series of articles, on misconduct at elite schools by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team adds to that interest. Collectively, schools and their boards recognize this is an important dialog to be in, a necessary and critical one. While to date Proctor Academy has not been contacted by the Globe or any other news organization, nor are we currently aware of any current or past students expressing concerns about faculty or staff sexual misconduct, we are sensitive to the issues raised in the media and want to ensure that we are considering all of the right community responses. How do we find the right balance of community introspection and community day-to-day momentum?
The well being and safety of our students is our highest priority at Proctor Academy, as it should be at any school. We work daily to foster a safe and healthy learning and living community. Consistently, we have had legal counsel and outside resources on campus to train faculty and staff to help them recognize and maintain appropriate boundaries and relationships within the different community contexts - teaching, coaching, advising, and dorm parenting. We have worked to raise student consciousness as well. This year, with outside speakers like Michael Kimmel, Cindy Pierce, and Alex Myers, a new partnership with the Crisis Center of New Hampshire, and on-going trainings with legal counsel, we believe we have done more collectively than in recent memory to ensure all the adults and students in our community understand expectations of behavior, reporting obligations and the avenues to report boundary crossings. We will continue and expand that training in the future.
I have deep faith in the adults in our community, their commitment to the education and well being of our students, and their ability to deliver an exceptional education that has lifelong benefits. In this time of questioning in the independent school world, it is important to remember the educators who have, in many cases, devoted their entire professional career to the service of students, their families, and the larger Proctor community. It is equally important to make clear that we will not tolerate inappropriate behaviors. We will report allegations as required by law, will respond appropriately, swiftly, and directly.
Our mission as a school is clear, and our commitment to that mission is wrapped in the tacit understanding that our community should be a safe and supportive one where relationships between faculty and students are rooted in well-founded trust. We are all part of creating, sustaining, and stewarding a school that so many have come to see as unique and important in the independent school landscape. Collectively we strive to get better at what we do by engaging in healthy community reflection and also engaging across the broader landscape.
If you would like to reach out to me at any time with questions, observations or suggestions for additional resources, please don’t hesitate to do so.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School