A History of Elitism and Sexual Misconduct

With an endowment of $176-million and a sticker price of $64,700 per year[1], The Thacher School (“Thacher”) stands as one of California’s most elite high schools.

Thacher hired Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP to conduct an impartial investigation of potential sexual misconduct at the elite institution. The inquiry began with interviews of more than 120 former students, parents, and current and former faculty, culminating in a final 90-page report (“The Report”) that covers allegations from up to 40 years ago.

A social media account, by the account name “@rpecultureatthacher”, was allegedly created to provide victims with a safe space to discuss the abuse[2].

Misconduct Was Not Unnoticed

According to The Report, many of the allegations were disregarded by faculty. In one instance, a junior in high school, who had opened up about being raped by a faculty member, stated that she was asked by the then-dean whether she “enjoyed it.”[3] This particular student claimed that she received a letter of recommendation from a counselor who noted her “unfortunate involvement with a faculty member.”[4] Willard Wyman, the head of school, allegedly persuaded the student’s mother not to press charges, “as it would further isolate her from her peers.”[5] The Report identifies Wyman, who had a tenure lasting over 15 years, as being involved in 17 inappropriate incidents of his own.[6] Other incidents, such as inappropriate conduct by the head soccer coach and student-to-student misconduct, fill The Report.[7]

The Reports Conclusions[8]

The Report concludes with three central findings:

  1. Thacher failed to properly protect its students and alumni;
  2. The result has created a lasting impact on the victims; and
  3. Thacher tolerated and sometimes fostered a culture of men holding power over women, which in turn allowed sexual misconduct to be minimized and ignored.

Next Steps

The Thacher School states that they are looking to rebuild, while acknowledging the lasting harm this will have on the victims. Thacher allegedly plans to establish a “comprehensive protocol” for misconduct; it will set policies for notifying other institutions about outgoing employees’ misconduct; and it looks to establish more rigid hiring standards.[9]

Thacher is not alone amongst the collection of private boarding schools allowing this misconduct. The Report recommends Thacher implement six categories of corrective actions:

  1. implementing measures to support students;
  2. improving training and education;
  3. revising policies and procedures for handling allegations of sexual misconduct by Thacher employees;
  4. revising policies and procedures for handling allegations of sexual misconduct by Thacher students;
  5. implementing general strategies to reduce the risk of sexual misconduct; and
  6. strengthening Board training and oversights.

For the entire report, please visit https://www.thacher.org/explore/special-committee-report.

Get in touch with a California sexual harassment attorney

Makarem & Associates is a pre-eminent California law firm dealing with sexual harassment cases on behalf of the victims. If you have been a victim sexual harassment or abuse at the workplace, call Makarem & Associates at 310-312-0299 or email at [email protected] for legal advice.


[1] The Thacher School, https://www.thacher.org/explore/facts-that-matter, (last visited June 23, 2021).
[2] Brittny Mejia, Matt Hamilton, Mellissa Gomez, Harriet Ryan, Decades of allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct rock exclusive Ojai boarding school, Los Angeles Times (June 17, 2021, 4:55 PM).
[3] Id.
[4] Hailyn Chen, Robyn Bacon, Report to the Board of Trustees of The Thacher School (June 2021), https://thacher.myschoolapp.com/ftpimages/148/download/download_6223895.pdf.
[5] Mejia, Decades of allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct rock exclusive Ojai boarding school, Los Angeles Times.
[6] Chen, Report to the Board of Trustees of The Thacher School
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.

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