A Private School’s Misconduct Becomes Public

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2021 | Sexual Harassment

Following up on our last blog post[1], Thacher School has been under strict scrutiny for allegedly turning a blind eye to several incidents of misconduct throughout the past 40 years. Many parents have tragically discovered that a sticker price of $64,700 per year[2] does not equate to a safe environment for their child.

Thacher hired Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP to conduct an impartial investigation of potential sexual misconduct. Interviews were conducted of more than 120 former students, parents, and current and former faculty, culminating in a final 90-page report (“The Report”) that dates back to allegations from 40 years ago. The trustees concluded that Thacher allowed sexual conduct to be minimized, ignored and dismissed.[3]

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

Fostering Relationships

As a small, tight knit community, Thacher’s faculty and students would naturally develop bonds through long camping trips and home visits for tutoring or just to bake cookies.[4] Without parents around, others assumed that the faculty was supposed to take on the role of ‘guardian.’ One alumna, Lucy Milligan Wahl, recalls wanting to feel “special” at Thacher.[5] According to several students and alumni, there was a natural feeling of protection and privilege at Thacher which later was revealed as a cost.

Protecting the School vs. Protecting the Students

The then-Head of School, Michael Mulligan, is receiving criticism for his handling of the complaints. While Mulligan has no allegations against him, he received a handful of complaints in which he allegedly valued the school’s reputation of the wellbeing of the student. On one occasion, a student alleged that two drunk male students entered their room while the females were asleep and raped them. Mulligan, in response to this allegation, allegedly told them to “think long and hard” before using the word “rape.” Since the release of the report, Mulligan has released a statement stating that he regrets those particular situations in which his decisions contributed to a student’s suffering.[6]

A Pandemic of Boarding School Abuse

Thacher is not alone in its conduct. There is a long history of alleged boarding school abuse made across the globe. From New Jersey’s Chartwell Manor[7] to Canada’s Marieval Indian Residential School[8], these matters are being revealed after decades of silence.

Accountability

These revelations are causing the schools to address their protocols and reform their systems to ensure a safe environment for children. 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] Other schools that have been exposed stated that they are developing and implementing their own plans. Hopefully, this builds a path towards all boarding schools implementing comprehensive protocols to prevent these incidents before they happen.

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] A History of Elitism and Sexual Misconduct, Makarem & Associates Blog (July 8, 2021) https://www.makaremlaw.com/blog/2021/07/a-history-of-elitism-and-sexual-misconduct/.

[2] The Thacher School, https://www.thacher.org/explore/facts-that-matter, (last visited July 23, 2021).

[3]Matt Hamilton, Brittny Mejia, Colleen Shalby, Mellissa Gomez, Behind elite boarding school’s veneer of trust and family, sexual misconduct was ‘ignored’, Los Angeles Times (June 22, 2021, 5:28 PM).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Rob Bailey-Millado, Sexual abuse rituals at NJ boarding school exposed – in cartoons by survivor, New York Post (June 21, 2021, 8:01 AM).

[8] Rian Austen, Dan Bilefsky, Hundreds More Unmarked Graves Found at Former Residential School in Canada, New York Times (July 5, 2021).

[9] The Thacher School, https://www.thacher.org/explore/facts-that-matter, (last visited July 23, 2021).

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