The Amends Project is a Washington state Nonprofit with a mission to mend the loophole that has allowed for the cover-up of child abuse in private schools: implementing The Justice CORPS Initiative.
Goals of The Amends Project:
- Bring the truth to light.
- Hold leaders accountable.
- Enact lasting, positive change.
Core Tenets of The Amends Project:
- No further exploitation will be allowed on the way toward resolution.
- Success by means of fear/control is no success at all.
- Situations will be influenced only by the sheer power of honesty, a fierce insistence on accountability, and the encouragement toward true growth and positive change.
- The Project will only conclude when leaders admit to the cover up, and new policies are firmly in place to protect the rights and wellbeing of students for perpetuity.
- This is for everyone.
Where in the world has the light of awareness reached?“Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Year 2, Week 9: So, You Want to Change the World?
Oh, Fantastic! You are in the right place. We do, too. The approach is transforming systems perpetuating institutional abuse – into ones of transparency, oversight and accountability. We are placing power back in the hands of youth & families.
. . . Ready to begin?
Five Ways to Give!
1. Donate Directly to our Nonprofit Paypal Account
Clicking this button allows you to donate directly
to our nonprofit bank account at any time.
2. Send a check to our mailing address
Checks may be payable to “The Amends Project”
PO Box 1559
3. Send an Anonymous Cashier’s Check directly to the credit union housing our nonprofit bank account
Simply make payable to “The Amends Project” and mail to:
Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU)
PO Box 9750
Bellingham, WA 98227
4. Give to the GoFundMe which funnels to the nonprofit bank account
* Find a detailed budget for the three-year program here! *
5. Give to the ongoing GoFundMe (started by a fellow alumna at one impacted boarding school) to support the facilitator in reaching this goal!
Donations are welcome here until the minimum is reached for fiscal sponsorship and the pilot program is rolling.
What about Transparency & Accountability in the donations process? Here are the criteria for giving:
1. Donors may be affiliated with Lawrence Academy of Groton, MA, or other private independent schools, only if they agree that their gift is unrestricted.
2. Donors do not earn positions of decision-making power or influence by their gift.
3. Donors may receive copies of the Annual Report made by the nonprofit Registered Agent (DB Services of Bellingham, WA ), and any records exchanged with Tides or other accelerators; and also enjoy weekly updates online. No additional communication will be exchanged privately.
4. Donors, and their immediate family members, may not act as Justice CORPS members.
5. Principles of Transparency and Accountability will be applied to all decisions, reports and records-keeping.
. . . Can you give freely, knowing this investment will pay off in the wellbeing of children for generations to come?
The Goal is to reach $250,000 by July 31, 2019 to secure fiscal sponsorship through the nonprofit accelerator, Tides.
There is still time!
From the generations of the future, we Thank You.
Year 2, Week 7: What is The Justice CORPS?
Year 2, Week 6: Truth & Its Irrepressible Rise
This week, I am blessed to receive another message of acknowledgement and gratitude… No, not yet from school leaders – though, we are in conversation (i.e., I am stating and restating terms of positive resolution). Over these past 25 years, I have received MANY expressions of appreciation for speaking up, doing what is right and holding firm to my principles in the face of pressure.
Today’s letter feels especially meaningful, and so, I thank the parent who took the time to send mail to my PO Box here in Bellingham, Washington.
First, let me tell all readers, families-impacted, and supporters of this movement that you are welcome to send mail directly to the PO Box 1559 Bellingham, WA 98227. I’ve updated the contact page to make this clear. No need to go through the organization address (or email) at Rooted Emerging. I am the primary point of contact for that post office box, so you can rest assured, it will reach me.
It is also the official mailing address for The Amends Project nonprofit.
I recall how important it was to me that Lowell Sun reporters include the words “The Amends Project” in that feature article of May 2018 (they did not) – and how concerns about being sued skewed the story, even then. So, I’ll take this opportunity now to also thank Every person who ventured finding me through my work since spring 2018 to reach out and concur about cover-ups and the necessity of change. Thank You.
I appreciate this letter on so many levels. One, just when things seemed a bit quiet with school letting out for the year, this reminds me how immediately pressing this issue remains. Secondly, it confirms a number of things I’d heard from other sources: recent cover-ups have been happening on campus, parents are disappointed and distraught over the poor handling, settlements and non-disclosures have been used to maintain silence. There is a whole web here, of nepotism, elitism and corruption. Yet – it can be undone and remade in the image of health!
Best of all, the author of this letter demonstrates the crucial step to navigating this issue well — watching the choices people make beyond what they say or appear to be.
The internal report by Sanghavi Group (curious how I know it was highly edited? Go ahead and email email@example.com and I’ll tell you the story of the eve of its release) contained a grand apology for the behavior of a former employee. It did not demonstrate remorse for endangering further students, or for the backlash enacted on the student who spoke up about the problem. It didn’t even speak to the facts of the man’s removal, or the true story of Steve Hahn’s quiet resignation the following year. And, no, it did not address or rectify the most recent cover-ups on campus (2014-2017).
Consider the action of pointing a loud and condemning finger at an employee long-gone – while saying nothing directly or responsibly about their own choices (they “could have done better”). If it is common knowledge now that school leaders concealed hiding a predator on campus and punished the student who spoke up about it, how does it impact people to not have the fact admitted or addressed?!
I can say with absolute confidence, People are Unnerved by it.
Could it be that by denying my requests (as of yet) to acknowledge the backlash and to repair those damages, Lawrence Academy sends a specific message? Might that action say, “If you speak up about our wrong-doing, we will unapologetically retaliate and attempt to smear your reputation.”
Charles Chandler knows about these kinds of consequences. Mike Rinaldi knows about these kinds of consequences… Only in Mike’s story (as of yet) do we see this fully run its course. Advocacy was finally rewarded and changes are now firmly in place so that similar harms are prevented in the future. Rinaldi was given the position of Principal at Westhill High School, and it is now illegal in the state of Connecticut to “pass the trash”, or avoid dealing with abusers by knowingly endangering others.
Could Headmaster Dan Scheibe & Trustee Bruce MacNeil be acting out of such gut-level fear they do not even see how their actions speak of guilt and secrecy far more loudly than any attorney-crafted public statement speaks of “good faith”?
What does all of this do to the culture of safety and learning on campus?
When I landed in Boston last fall to attend Open House in Groton, Massachusetts, I felt it physiologically: this would be much harder to do at close range. So, I offer my empathy here, for those who see this web of corruption as clearly (or, possibly even more clearly) than I do, yet feel unsafe to speak out or put their name on the message of dissent. Even this letter’s author understands, “…if everyone agrees to keep things ‘confidential’ the situation will not improve and lives will continue to be damaged.”
The speaking, in all its forms, is crucial. The seeing clearly through public statements to whether actions truly align is crucial. If we carefully track the school’s actions to date, there does seem to be a clear message: If you speak out, we will deny and defame you. We would send you away and then tell you nothing of the sort ever happened.
Does this stance welcome feedback, or the positive growth it brings?
If school leaders now issued a second, honest public statement showing remorse for punishing those who speak up, would YOU feel reassured? If they made the situation right – living their mission of “learning from their failures” – would the healing truly begin? We can learn from watching how these things resolve and insist on truth, all the way to completion.
Whether you are able to attach your name or not, I invite you to reach out. Do you know something about this school and cover-ups? Do you have information you are burning to share, yet can’t risk your name in public? Send me some mail! An anonymous letter, or postcard. I’ll make a montage and include it in the next expose…
Such a massive relief, when Truth rises up.
The Amends Project
PO Box 1559
Year 2, mid-week 5: Growing Up Men
To add some context and balance to this week’s update, I want to illuminate the other branch of this effort. One is learning about the patterns of cover-ups through engaging one school toward a higher resolution outside of court.
The second branch is the content and implementation of a solution to bring transparency and oversight to strengthening all institutions, through The Justice CORPS.
Richard Rohr is a Franciscan monk who speaks wisely about the inner life of men and the journey of growing up. To readers of all genders and ages, I highly recommend this piece:
Listen especially for his metaphor of the three boxes: Order, Disorder, Reorder. He says, “There is no nonstop flight from order to reorder.” Rohr suggests that some, when faced with disorder, will simply remake and remake the first box – even if it doesn’t match with facts or reality. He shows how progress happens from a state of order, moving into disorder, and finally arriving at reorder.
This makes very clear sense in watching the behaviors of resistance and denial in the the five key men at this one school – who abuse, fail to respond, cover up, pretend everything is better now and pull the puppet strings. Rohr speaks so compassionately and fearlessly to the experience of men, I had to bring it to this forum today.
These schools, like the related institutions alongside them, find themselves in a state of disorder. See if you can track which steps seek to simply remake and remake the first box of order (despite facts or reality) and which can bring us through the uncomfortable phase of disorder… all the way to Re-Order.
Here’s to going gracefully into the necessity of positive change.
Year 2, Week 5: The Dance of Denial & Holding Firm
Last week was a rare moment of rest. What transpired? A bit more email exchange with Executive Committee President Bruce MacNeil.
Wouldn’t I take that offer without any honest acknowledgement? It’s sitting right there on the table until June 15… was I really sure about turning it down? Oh, yes.
Some highlights from my response back:
“There is a consistent theme of actions that send the message, “Be quiet or go away.”. Then, when I do speak, “You cannot trust what she says.” There is a clear pattern here that I am sure is difficult to face.
Every one of these choices made a terrible thing far bigger than it ever had to be.
You have repeatedly hurt me and the trust the community has in the school with every one of them. Facing the pattern now frees you from a trajectory of mistakes that weaken you and Lawrence Academy.”
. . . What’s it like to have someone who refuses to speak with you – yet speaks poorly of you at every opportunity – tell you that your lived experience simply did not happen?
Pretty darn strange.
I’ve attempted to clear up accounts:
I’ve invited to a new Restorative Justice process…
What Does one do when a removed and distant person tries to obfuscate facts about your own life to keep themselves comfortable?
Hold Firm To Your TRUTH.
Have a good week, Bruce.
Year 2, Week 3: Goals 1, 2 & 3 – in what order?
June 4, 2019
I am writing to acknowledge your time-sensitive offer for financial settlement, expiring June 15, 2019.
Without an honest moment of admission, for the sake of recovery and growth, I cannot accept financial payout.
I am declining your offer as it stands. I am, as you know, seeking funding to support the Justice CORPS Initiative – to bring positive reform to the first two willing schools for the 2019-2020 school year. My current fundraising goal is $250,000, the minimum requirement to secure fiscal sponsorship through the nonprofit accelerator, Tides.
As a counter offer, I suggest that you apply $75,000 toward that effort. I have done all the work to register The Amends Project as a nonprofit in Washington state. Your donation would be greatly appreciated.
As for the conflict between the school and myself, I consider it unresolved.
Tenet # 4 of The Amends Project states that the project only concludes “when leaders admit to the cover-up . . . and new policies are firmly in place to protect the rights and wellbeing of students for perpetuity.” I accept that my goals may not be accomplished in this order.
Over these past two years of our active engagement, you have employed defamation, slander, dishonesty, denial cloaked as “disagreement”, a duplicitous story, intimidation (do you really need that many police to try to arrest me at Open House?), disrespect for my limits, my time and more. These are your crimes. Choosing to dig in your heels on a stance of refusal to admit or to grow causes such harms.
You know what I need. Acknowledge to me, and to all, that it was wrong to remove a student without cause after she confronted one of your abusive employees. It was wrong to keep him employed while sending a young student away. Apologize for derailing her education and damaging her sense of safety on campus, and in the world. Thank her for working quietly for many years to ensure that no new, incoming students would suffer in the same way.
As for your numbers – it occurs to me often that nowhere in society does the defendant also get to be the judge. Your opinion on your offer is of no substance to me. Secondly, if my former attorney, the undisputed expert in the field, concludes that we will reach a certain settlement – even before detailed documents surfaced – then I am sticking with that number.
With settlement, I seek the stability to continue my work of reforming schools to embrace transparency. I want this so that all kids can graduate high school safely and go on to begin their careers and achieve their aspirations sooner.
Again, I can only accept financial settlement that is accompanied by acknowledgement. Honesty is what repairs. You let me know when you are ready to proceed on that road.
In the meantime, here is the new fundraiser: gofundme.com/dm3bsq-the-solution
Or, you may put donations directly into the nonprofit PayPal account: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=RK795646F5NYY&source=url
Year 2, Week 3: The Need for One, Unifying Story
Lawrence Academy officials turned down the invitation to a second Restorative Justice process this week. Remember, the first effort occurred on March 1, 2018 – when the time, place and agreements had all been set… but headmaster Dan Scheibe chose to cancel the Circle while a former student was on her way across the country. She was expecting a cooperative and peaceful process, yet met with something else entirely.
When she arrived in Massachusetts, she learned that school leaders would not honor their confirmed plans; Dan Scheibe simply left a letter at the hotel desk informing her of the change. An abbreviated process did unfold (after her fierce insistence), yet the school’s attorney was present, and ensured that no acknowledgement of wrongdoing was accidentally uttered. No honesty, no repair.
More than a year of efforts by school leaders to deflect the message of a former student unfolded… Lawrence Academy hired a law firm to create a report to support their case in subsequent lawsuits. With it, they retained final editing rights – and the former headmaster did not even participate.
Has there been a true repair since their internal report was released? Has anyone been reassured?
Tomorrow, May 31, another graduation ceremony, the 226th, will happen on the campus in Groton, MA. There will likely be celebration and words to proclaim their greatness. Will those in attendance feel the discord?
Human beings need consistency to feel safe. When we hear one thing and perceive another, we are unnerved – rightly so.
Here’s to the possibility of one school coming into alignment, so that words and actions finally match – and healing may finally begin.
Year 2, Week 2: Would Never = Hasn’t Yet
This week flew by, as I announced The Amends Project to my email list of about 250 people…
Hello to my lovely local & professional networks!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the statement, “That would never happen.” I’m also revisiting “unreasonable”.
Back in August of 2018, I asked headmaster Dan Scheibe and Trustee Bruce MacNeil to a public response. People were very upset over the truths that were surfacing – and many had a natural urge to be honestly met. They needed an honest response. I’d asked that these leaders make the most recent cover-up right, so that kids would be safe. In response, these two men ceased communication with me. In August, though, the event location was set and reporters were prepared. Neither man showed up. I simply gathered more supporters instead; and Bruce MacNeil submitted comments to the press about my being “unreasonable”.
For him, I offer this quote again:
“The reasonable wo/man adapts her/self to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to her/self. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable wo/man.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Indeed, we do count on those who see beyond a current situation to what could be and what needs to happen. It wasn’t all that long ago, when people were reconciling these shifts:
“Women would never own property.” became “a woman hasn’t owned property yet.” Then, she had.
“An African-American man would never be president” became “an African-American man hasn’t been president yet.” Then, he had.
And on it goes. It’s important to remember this long-range view, as we move forward…
“Private schools would never choose to be transparent about abuses and how they respond to them.” has become, “a private school hasn’t accepted transparency yet.” Until then, two had…
If we only look backward to inform what is possible, we miss so many opportunities before us now, for great improvements.
This one is the most fun, to round out the week:
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Lewis Carrol, “Through the Looking Glass”
Year 2, Week 1: If You Carry a Strong Heart
It’s the start of new cycle, one year after going public with The Amends Project. There have been many important steps along the way: two years since seeking (and eventually releasing) legal counsel; sixteen years since exposing the school for sheltering a child molester; and 25 years since first confronting him. What keeps you going through all of that time and resistance?
Knowing there are so many among you, with a strong heart for positive social change.
I recall something a musician-friend once said, “If you carry a guitar, you meet people who carry guitars.” Fortunately, over this past year, I’ve also learned, If you carry a strong heart and a commitment to positive change, you meet people who carry a strong heart and a commitment to positive change…
This week, I am proud to introduce our Organization Partners.
Justine Finn of the Relation-Shift Project, at Harvard Innovation Lab, was the first official Advisor to join The Amends Project’s efforts, back in October 2018. With her profound work with schools, using data-driven assessments and trainings for educators and students, Relation-Shift brings a strong focus on prevention and also resolution. With my decade of experience in sexual health, and now, systems-level change with The Amends Project, we have recognized a similar mission in the world. Relation-Shift is working to “End Sexual Violence, Promote Healthy Relationships, Create Safer Schools.”
Safe BAE is youth-led, national peer-to-peer organization that changes culture through empowering students with tools to become activists, by raising awareness about our rights through Title IX, teaching bystander intervention and affirmative consent.
I have seen Shael in action, in my hometown of Bellingham, Washington and found her work truly moving and paradigm-shifting. She has been a quiet advocate behind-the-scenes of The Amends Project efforts, and I welcome her as an organization partner!
Here’s to Carrying On Strong into a new year!
Week 52: Authenticity & Long-Range Vision
Tomorrow, May 8, 2019 is the one year anniversary of going pubic with The Amends Project story and efforts. To that end, I’ve been thinking a lot about milestones/where this has been and where it now needs to go . . .
Every step has a part in the unfolding. Speaking up, holding out for acknowledgement, turning down the path that causes more pain, creating a vision and the persistence of holding true to that vision.
This is about making our basic institutions more worthy of trust, so we can have a society of greater integrity and health.
In that spirit, please enjoy this recent article from Forbes, about Authenticity and How to Recognize Genuine people, leaders, organizations… https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/05/10/12-habits-of-genuine-people/#2045572c461d
“Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity.”
– Janet Louise Stephenson
End of Week 51: He Who Owns & Controls the Story
Lawrence Academy of Groton, MA released the report from their investigation on Thursday April 25, 2019. Here, you will find the larger context (more significant statistics) on the report’s finding. Most importantly, you can learn about the current effort to implement a transparency and oversight system called The Justice CORPS, to protect the wellbeing of students at all private, independent high schools.
How did the school finally release Peter Regis? What are those facts?: The Story
Week 51: By the Numbers
“He who goes looking for a lack of evidence will surely find it.”
“He who writes the check shall be exonerated.”
7: number of times former student Vanessa Osage approached Lawrence Academy headmaster Steven Hahn in his office, from 1994-2000, pleading first for her protection, and then, for the protection of incoming students.
7: number of years Lawrence Academy officials decided to knowingly employ a documented child molester on campus.
300: number, as an estimate, of students, faculty & staff in attendance in the Lawrence Academy auditorium, on December 10, 2001, in which former student Vanessa Osage (then, 23) gave a speech revealing that leadership had been knowingly exposing them to the dangers of a child molester on campus.
(Peter Regis was finally let go, only when she was on her way to campus from California and could not be reached; he was dismissed on “permanent, long-term disability”)
4: number of sexual misconduct incidents, by former employee Peter Regis, recorded by Sanghavi Law Office during their investigation.
9: number of of sexual misconduct incidents, by former employee Peter Regis, tallied by alumni in the fall of 2018 (individual accounts by different people)
5+: number of alumni who refused to participate in that investigation/internal report on a matter of principle.
1: number in rank that “lack of trust” was cited as a reason to not participate.
19: number of alumni who have pledged, in writing, to not donate to Lawrence Academy again, or until they make this situation right.
11: number of people who have contacted me, Vanessa Osage, privately since the Lowell Sun feature article of May 27, 2018 to concur and share their stories of painful cover-up behavior by Lawrence Academy (both former and current administrations)
2017: year of most recent account, given by the parent of a former student by phone, about current Lawrence Academy leadership’s efforts to silence, bully, “buy them out” with a tuition refund, and more, following an assault on their child by a faculty member.
1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2014, 2015, 2016
: years that represent the remaining cover-up stories shared about Lawrence Academy
3: number of stories shared, with accounts from 2014-2017, of Lawrence Academy officials offering families free or reimbursed tuition in exchange for silence (leaving and/or not pressing charges) for child abuse on campus.
22+: number of hours I, Vanessa Osage, have spent on the phone since May 2018, with alumni, former Trustees and/or parents of recent Lawrence Academy students; to console, affirm and corroborate their stories of unethical behavior by administration following abuse of themselves or their child.
(number does not include hours spent in collaboration with other alumni, professionals, and child safety advocates from around the country, to address this)
:number of ways, or extent to which, Dan Scheibe, Paul Lannon and/or Bruce MacNeil will attempt to defame or discredit former Lawrence Academy student, Vanessa Osage, ’96.
:extended costs of current leadership choosing to mislead, hide facts, silence, avoid, bully and/or coerce any member of the Lawrence Academy community.
:the quantitative impact on families, who must question whether to believe a former student (students) or Lawrence Academy school leaders who are responsible for the care of their kids.
2: number of years since headmaster Dan Scheibe asked people to come forward.
2: number of private, independent high schools from across the nation, to be engaged in the pilot program of The Justice CORPS – the Committee to Oversee the Rights & Protections of Students, for the 2019-2020 school year.
4: number of times The Justice CORPS model was proposed to Lawrence Academy, as part of resolution, from July 2018 – February 2019; also the number of times rejected.
3: the current number of professional Advisors to the nonprofit, The Amends Project, in addition to myself, who are lending their time and expertise to seeing that positive change is secured at private, independent high schools, for the sake of kids and families.
(number does not include additional people who offer their high quality support, expertise and wise counsel, behind the scenes)
0: Zero, the cost of looking at what people do, instead of what they say, to inform your decisions about what is true.
1: the number of readers it takes to make a significant, positive impact on the outcomes at Lawrence Academy (and beyond).
You Are 1
Stay tuned, dear reader . . .
Week 50: National Child Abuse Prevention Month
We are midway through April 2019, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, as
designated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Prevention is always multi-layered, so let’s delve into some of those layers here…
A recent editorial in The Lowell Sun regarding The Justice CORPS suggested that simply teaching kids to call police after every abuse incident was, instead, the way to go. I have to disagree. There are layers of subtly to this issue that need to be accounted for. First, is the truest piece of prevention…
Know Your Rights
When students enter a private high school setting (or most schools, for that matter), they are largely unaware of their legal rights, in regards to safety and protection from abuse. Title IX may not apply at private schools, but every young person in the United States still has legal rights to safety. Having their bearings on what they can and cannot do about a mistreatment is the very beginning. Even if a young person never utilizes their rights or legal options while at high school, ensuring that all kids know what is expected of them in the sensitive world of abuse serves its own preventative function. Too often, it is the naive lack of knowing that creates an opening for adult:child abuse, especially.
We all act differently when we know where we stand.
* The Justice CORPS model begins each school year with an all-school assembly on 1. Knowing Your Rights 2. Expectations for Behavior 3. Defining Abuse 4. What Happens When You Contact Justice CORPS Members
* CORPS members and supporting organizations also return mid-year to familiarize all on campus with both the system, and the people working to support them
The Experience of Children During Institutional Abuse
A young person may not be willing to immediately expose themselves to the lack of control that comes with involving police. The decision to press charges or file a report needs to be a secondary, thoughtful step. Utilizing The Justice CORPS, the Committee to Oversee the Rights & Protections of Students, creates a way to track incidents without placing undo (and untimely) pressure on young people to jump from one perceived frying pan and into another fire.
The Intersection of Parents & School Officials
The Justice CORPS model also helps to prevent the pressure officials (in some schools) are inclined to apply to parents. This practice – of approaching parents with a hush-hush attitude – adds to a mother or father’s confusion and pain in many ways. It puts them in the highly difficult position of choosing from among 1. protecting their child’s safety 2. looking out for their child’s privacy 3. considering their child’s future 4. weighing whether the investment in a “good name” education is worth following through on.
Absolutely, the police need to be involved – as soon as a child and family are ready to make that decision – without input from school officials.
Let us remember, that child abuse happens in a larger system – as children are raised into the larger systems around them. To solve this kind of abuse, on private high school campuses and beyond, we must thoroughly address the sometimes persistent accompanying institutional abuse.
Institutional abuse is any practice that uses reputation, clout, intimidation or the threat of “conditional belonging” to discourage people from utilizing their rights or protecting their wellbeing.
For a moment, let’s reference the parallel issue of child abuse cover-up in churches.
There is a clear power hierarchy that places some at the very bottom and others in a seemingly untouchable top. After tracking Lawrence Academy for decades – and watching the unfolding with church scandal reckonings – I see it this way:
Priests are perceived as having the keys to the after life.
Headmasters are perceived as having the keys to the good life.
Of course, neither position truly controls the destiny of young people in their care. Yet, it is this perception that is exploited in the function of abuse and its concealment. To suggest that a child’s soul may be endangered for speaking up – or to imply/threaten that a child’s future would be derailed for calling a spade a spade – the abuse of power is the umbrella for both child abuse and institutional abuse.
It has been a very long road of speaking up, managing consequences, continuing to speak up, and also pursuing right action to Prevent Child Abuse at Lawrence Academy and beyond.
The Justice CORPS is born from insights into institutional and child abuse from the inside of an institution, out. It also has a decade of professional experience in prevention and youth empowerment in the hands of its delivery. Alumni, parents, legislators, school leaders, organization founders, educators, attorneys, advocates and more have contributed to its structure.
Now, we just need to give it a try . . .
The Amends Project is now a Washington state nonprofit. With tax day upon us, very practical tasks are falling into place: securing an EIN, filing a Business License, preparing a designated bank account, taking all necessary steps to operate with fiscal sponsorship with Tides (see Middle Week 47) or another nonprofit accelerator.
My personal goal is to have all pieces in place to open the Call to Schools by May 8, 2019. This is the one-year anniversary of my decision to bring my efforts to light publicly by launching this website, circulating petitions, working with press, and more.
Goal: Secure funding to run this program at two schools simultaneously in the United States for the 2019-2020 school year. With success, and continued review of implementation in action, we may then encourage more schools to adopt Justice CORPS models via their own simple funding methods.
I am preparing to bring a whole new way of preventing child abuse to fruition…
To join or support this effort, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
End of Week 49: Obfuscation / Clarity
See Clearly. Act Accordingly.
|Apr 11, 2019, 1:31 PM (12 hours ago)|
I spoke with the school about your questions below. I can confirm that yes*, at the time the investigators’ report is released publicly the school and the investigators will also be addressing publicly the scope of the investigation and the nature of the engagement. I don’t have further information to share at this time.
There was not a yes/no question in the original message. If there was, the answer would be, “No, we will not provide any verification.”
I did not ask the question, “Will the school retain control of all information – including the scope of investigation and the level of disclosure with Sanghavi Group – until they can orchestrate a precise release when it best suits them?” To this question, the answer would be ‘yes’.
2:19 AM (0 minutes ago)
Thank you, Paul,
I am interpreting this vagueness to mean (as was confirmed to fellow alumni by phone) the investigation has only focused on the actions of former employee, Peter Regis.
I also conclude that the school has retained the right to control the contents of the report, so that findings will be released only according to their interests.
I will have more for you by Monday.
Remember, we track the unfolding with this one school to better understand the patterns of cover-up – so that they may be recognized, and finally transformed.
Deny, Deceive, Discredit –> Diminishment
must, for the sake of health, become…
Reveal, Record, Repair –> Resilience
We want stronger schools. We want healthier systems. Healthier, Safer kids and families.
This is about finding a new way forward.
Middle Week 49: Accountability vs. Punishment
The idea of “holding people accountable” can often sound threatening or unnerving. I believe this is so because of a general confusion or lack of distinction between accountability and punishment. Yet, I see a very clear distinction between the two. So, I’d like to illustrate those differences here.
Accountability asks people to step up.
Punishment seeks to put people down.
Accountability seeks answers and acknowledgement, to make sense of a larger reality beyond one person’s experience.
Punishment seeks to relieve the suffering of one by causing pain to another, thereby continuing the cycle of abuse.
Accountability reinforces our connectedness.
Punishment breeds isolation and shame (and often, therefore, more violence)
Accountability is thorough, ties up loose ends and encourages greater completion to an unresolved issue.
Punishment creates second, third and more waves of painful emotion that ripple outward to create an unchecked level of consequence on all of those around the issue.
Enacted with skill, accountability inspires greater excellence through the difficult process of owning the consequences of our actions in a way that brings greater clarity.
At its best, punishment brings about a discouragement that postpones the urges to act in harmful ways, for a time.
In all of my efforts from 1994 to present, I have sought to bring positive change to the school. No harms, no further exploitation (as in Core Tenet #1). This is why the legal road was not a fit, as it omitted – Acknowledgement – which is the only thing that opens the door to healing, and then positive change. The legal road sought results by fear and pain. A value behind The Amends Project work is that results are achieved by encouragement/non-punitive. True, growing pains can happen. Yet, it is for the kind of necessary cleansing that brings about healing.
The most important “findings” will not be about the actions of one sick man long-gone. Most significant are facts about:
* what school officials knew
* how they communicated with families whose children were involved
* the steps they took (or failed to take) following
* how they have responded to those who’ve spoken up about abuse
* what kinds of silencing efforts continue to this day?
I trust the most important truths will rise up in the coming weeks.
Week 49: Questions, Big & Small
What kind of society do we have when “trusted” adults can let kids down to that extent (knowingly employing a child molester despite years of pleading for right action) and then pretend – for decades – to have done nothing wrong?
What does it tell young people, both the choice and the pretending, about what will be expected of them? What about the strength of the fabric of adult life they hope to weave themselves into? What is the impact on the larger experience of hope among adolescents?
Sat, Dec 22, 2018, 11:29 AM
Wed, Dec 26, 2018, 2:31 PM
11:51 AM (0 minutes ago)
I ask politely, again, for verification that findings from the investigation will not be edited, abbreviated or altered by the school. Additionally, any agreement about the scope of investigation (whether of actions by school officials or a former employee) is highly relevant.
As we learned in the New York Time article, where you yourself were quoted as questioning how truly “independent” these investigations are, these parameters make or break the believability of such reports.
“But critics say that the firms, often described by administrators as “independent,” can be too close to the schools they are investigating. Ultimately, it is the schools that pay their bills, and decide what information will be released.
“If they do this full time, there is a perception issue, that they’re not going to draw tough conclusions in all cases,” said Roderick MacLeish, a lawyer who represents victims of abuse at private schools. “If you’re going to keep doing this, how tough are you going to be on some private school client, when you are basically marketing yourself for other investigations in the future?”
Even the firms that conduct them acknowledge that the investigations are not free of conflict.
“It’s important for institutions to be careful about the word ‘independent’ and be transparent about what this means,” said Paul G. Lannon Jr., a partner at Holland & Knight. “They are paying for these services, it’s not like these are volunteers coming in.”
“…At the outset, schools generally outline parameters for the firms they hire. Some ask investigators to focus on a specific span of time, or on adult misconduct, as opposed to student-on-student sexual violence. They will decide whether the inquiry will culminate in a written report, or some kind of oral presentation. A budget is discussed. Some reports name several perpetrators and the administrators who protected them, while others present almost no information about what happened.
Some pledge ahead of time to release their findings, while others wait to see what is uncovered before they decide what they will make public.”
If I do not receive this verification by Monday April 15, 2019, I will conclude that all findings will be subject to the school’s discretion; and I will proceed accordingly.
Also, from the article, with direct mention of the law firm hired by Lawrence Academy in 2018:
“The Sanghavi Law Office, a Massachusetts firm founded by a former civil rights lawyer at the United States Education Department, has conducted investigations at a number of schools, including Phillips Academy in Andover. The school released a letter to its community last year with some findings, and then in July, it released the full report, which named perpetrators but provided few hints about what administrators knew or what they did with the information they had.”
What is the Real Question the investigation by Sanghavi Law Office is trying to answer?
Whom and what do they serve?
Where else might we focus, to ensure that cover-ups never happen again?
Week 48: Rounding Out the Story, Filling in the What, How & Why
Thanks to Rick Sobey, of the Lowell Sun & Boston Herald, for keeping residents of the New England area updated on developments in The Amends Project!
Last week, I attended a Sustainable Business Summit here in NW Washington. The theme was strengthening your quadruple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit & Purpose.
The triple bottom line was familiar to me from understanding cooperative models, and in researching business structures when I expanded from a nonprofit to a Social Enterprise. So, after an a few hours of excellent speakers, a high-quality panel, and more, attendees filtered into workshop stations. This first session helped us clarify our Purpose.
We talked about the Mission of our work as the “what”. The Purpose, by contrast, spoke to our “why”. True, I was primarily attending as business owner of Love & Truth Rising. Yet, my experience running a nonprofit for 10 years came quickly to mind. Mostly, though, I kept considering these criteria through words chosen for the newly established nonprofit, The Amends Project.
The “what” is outlined in the Secretary of State application as the purpose. What are you trying to achieve? Specifically, “to mend the loophole that has allowed for the cover-up of child abuse at private schools: implementing The Justice CORPS Initiative.”. This statement actually identifies what with a brief overview of how. How to mend that loophole? Implement the Initiative.
More of the “how” is anchored in a business or organization’s values.
The Amends Project has these core tenets:
- No further exploitation will be allowed on the way toward resolution.
- Success by means of fear/control is no success at all.
- Situations will be influenced only by the sheer power of honesty, a fierce insistence on accountability, and the encouragement toward true growth and positive change.
- The Project will only conclude when leaders admit to the cover up, and new policies are firmly in place to protect the rights and wellbeing of students for perpetuity.
- This is for everyone.
Which can be distilled into these values:
- Growth by Encouragement (non-punitive)
- Lasting, Positive Change (systemic, root-level)
- Equality (this effort is designed to benefit all)
Why are we doing this?!
The larger Purpose is “to reduce the incidence of child abuse on campuses by 50% or more in three year cycles, until there is none.” Yes, it’s a lofty goal. So, why?
- This is an entirely worthwhile and necessary goal.
- I also believe, it is achievable.
- Beyond this, I know it is time.
Check back soon for an updated GoFundMe campaign to reach the budget requirement for fiscal sponsorship with Tides…
Middle of Week 47: The Tides of Healing & Positive Change
The Amends Project has now applied for fiscal sponsorship through Tides, a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator with more than 40 years of experience in scaling over 1400 social ventures, fueling social change in 120+ countries, and mobilizing over $3 billion for impact.
Yes, they are singing our song! Goal # 3: Enact Lasting, Positive Change
What does fiscal sponsorship mean? From their website: “Tides supports over 140 projects with fiscal sponsorship, providing them with 501(c)(3) charitable status (and, thus, the ability to accept tax-deductible donations) as well as financial administration, human resource and benefits management, governance, compliance, and risk management. This allows social change leaders to leave the administration to us, focusing their time and energy on bringing their visions to life.”
To qualify, entities must meet these requirements:
“Confirmed funding and budget
To start your social venture at Tides, you must have an expected annual budget of at least $250,000 with confirmed support and formal grant commitments for 100% of your budget for the first year at Tides.”
So, here we go!
A few grant applications have already been successfully submitted, to reach this goal. The securing of funds must occur before fiscal sponsorship – so, we officially welcome private donors to help us achieve this goal on time.
Private Donor Criteria:
- Donors may be affiliated with Lawrence Academy of Groton, MA, or other private independent schools, only if their gift is unrestricted, and the donor signs an Acceptance Policy agreement.
- Donors do not earn positions of decision-making power or influence by their gift.
- Donors may expect to receive exact copies of the Annual Report made by the Registered Agent, and any records exchanged with Tides or other accelerators; no additional private communication will be conducted.
- Donors, and their extended family members, may not act as Justice CORPS members.
- Principles of Transparency and Accountability will be applied to all donations, and outlined in an Acceptance Policy.
How will this all work?
First, the timeline…
April 30, 2019 – Secure $250,000+ in unrestricted funds for the Project’s mission, to meet the guidelines for fiscal sponsorship with Tides.
May 8, 2019 – Announce the “Open Call to Schools”, a 30-day period in which two private high schools will apply to participate in The Justice CORPS pilot program for the 2019-2020 school year.
June 8, 2019 – Close the Call to Schools and select the two schools to run the program simultaneously (preference will be given to schools from different accrediting bodies).
June 17, 2019 – Announce the two participating schools (possibly through the National Association of Independent Schools, NAIS, as a communication hub) and begin detailed agreements.
June 30, 2019 – Begin application, screening and training process for two sets of Justice CORPS members; and planning out the year ahead with the two participating schools.
What are the components of the Project/Initiative that require funding?
- Facilitation of the model, including applications, interviews, in-person and remote trainings, travel to attend the two all-school assemblies, and coordination of all moving pieces.
- Delivery of information to schools – happening at the all-school assemblies – and in support training to staff and administration.
- Additional consultation on implementation of the program.
- Hiring a film company to document the journey of this revolutionary new approach to the handling of child abuse at high school campuses, for one or both participating schools.
- Records keeping, systems creation, communication tool adjustments and additional support.
The model will be implemented over a three-year cycle at these two schools, through philanthropic funding for innovative solutions.
With successful implementation and review of the model’s strengths and weaknesses, a new system will be created for additional schools to fund the operation of Justice CORPS policies at their institutions. The model may then scale to an increasing number of schools throughout the country.
Remember, schools that are able to tally a true count of abuses, and record both incidents and quality of response, ultimately reducing the incidence of abuse by 50% or more in three year cycles may be awarded a Seal of Excellence in Child Safety.
Look for publication of the Donor Acceptance Policy to be posted here on the website by early April…
For Questions, Contributions and Donor Criteria details, please email: email@example.com
Week 47: Words of Wisdom, from the Other Side of Success
Those who are following the week count may notice we are rapidly approaching the one year mark (52 weeks) in the public phase of The Amends Project! In that time, many significant developments have taken place…
In practical service of our goal, enact lasting, positive change, we have identified – by observation – the formula for institutional weakening, in the wake of abuse.
Deny, Deceive, Discredit —> Diminishment
This passage from Ray Dalio’s epic tome, “Principles” helps illuminate the strength of the alternate response…
Dalio was Founder & CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world and the fifth most important private company in the U.S. (according to Fortune). Bridgewater has been called, “The Apple of the investing world”. On page 61, he writes,
“SYSTEMIZING OUR LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
“One of our most memorable mistakes happened in the early 1990’s, when Ross, who was in charge of trading at the time, forgot to put in a trade for a client and the money just sat there in cash. By the time the mistake was discovered, the damage was several hundred thousand dollars.
“It was a terrible and costly error, and I could’ve done something dramatic like fire Ross to set a tone that mistakes would not be tolerated. But since mistakes happen all the time, that would have only encouraged other people to hide theirs, which would have led to even bigger problems and more costly errors. I believed strongly that we should bring problems and disagreements to the surface to learn what should be done to make things better. So Ross and I worked to build out on “error log” in the trading department. From then on, anytime there was any kind of bad outcome… the traders would make a record of it and we would follow up. As we consistently tracked and addressed those issues, our trade execution machine continually improved.”
Those who have been following the progress of the Amends Project will instantly recognize the parallels between Dalio’s system – and The Justice CORPS model. We can only solve the problem we can very clearly see.
He continues, “Having a process that ensure problems are brought to the surface, and their root causes diagnosed, assures that continual improvements occur.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
So, to distill down the message of almost a year of reflections, observations and efforts toward positive change.
Deny, Deceive, Discredit —> Diminishment
can be transformed into…
Reveal, Record, Repair —> Resilience
We want resilience for young people and their families; we want resilience for schools.
All of this is possible.
Look for further updates by the end of the week…
Week 46: Articles of Incorporation, Nonprofit!
What is The Amends Project? A movement, an effort… a nonprofit entity in Washington state. This week, a structure has been designated to house The Amends Project as a nonprofit. BD Services Corporation, of Bellingham, WA is the Registered Agent.
Purpose of Corporation? To mend the loophole that has allowed for the cover-up of child abuse at private schools: implementing the Justice CORPS Initiative.
What does this mean? Now, The Amends Project can interact with the larger world of child safety organizations, affiliates and other entities in a more official way. The pool of potential funders for The Justice CORPS also expands, with the new filing status.
State nonprofits function differently than federal, 501(c)3 charitable organizations. Donations are not yet tax-deductible. Though, many doors now open…
Next steps? Submit applications for a 3rd, 4th and 5th potential funder to support the pilot run of the Justice CORPS at two private high schools, from two separate Accrediting bodies, anywhere across the United States.
Arrange for fiscal sponsorship, so that donations may be tax deductible and philanthropic support may be more accessible.
Forge an affiliate relationship with a related nonprofit, to award the Seal of Excellence in Child Safety, to schools that can: 1. accurately tally a true count of abuses (student:student -or- faculty/staff:student) 2. demonstrate a high-level response to these incidents in action (meeting or exceeding the Recommendations laid out by the Independent Schools Task Force of 2018), including a Restorative Justice option 3. reduce the incidence of abuse on campus by 50% or more in a three-year cycle.
Let the healing begin!
Open Call to Schools is scheduled to be released in May 2019 . . . stay tuned.
Week 43: A Gathering of Sorts & A Call for Filmmakers
It’s been a remarkable week in terms of coincidence and gathering together around The Amends Project.
About a week ago, a member of my local Sexual Health Advocates Group reached out to ask colleagues for volunteer help with the upcoming “Big Consent Event” in Bellingham, Washington. I had a few morning hours available, so I headed out to the local community college just after 8 am to act as a greeter. There, in the cold, I excitedly welcomed groups of middle and high school students to the day’s activities. At times, it was a trickle – at other times, a flowing river. Local schools participated by arranging bus service for high school students who would volunteer to miss a day of school to learn more about Consent.
It was incredibly impressive. What I caught of opening speeches, videos and workshops inspired such hope and relief, along with the necessity of heartbreak. If I counted correctly, there were nearly 200 young people in attendance – teams as they had organized themselves – showing up to prepare to change the culture toward interpersonal, relational and sexual health.
I recognized a supporting organization, Safe BAE, as I’d spoken with founder Shael Norris in the weeks leading up to my trip to New England in early November. I slowly realized as I watched presenters… there she was! This bold, accomplished woman who chatted with me from New York months ago had landed, serendipitously, right in my hometown!
We made a date to follow up to talk, again, about the Justice CORPS Initiative…
Then, when it came time for another check-in with The Amends Project Advisors – I learned one has landed, for six months at least, all the way from New England just south of me in the Seattle, Washington area!
All of my various works in sexual health seem to be enjoying a beautiful confluence as the latest evolution of the Justice CORPS Initiative 2.19.19 takes hold.
There will be more news to share soon… For now, I’d like to make a call to help bring this model to successful fruition.
Once we are ready for the Open Call to Schools – inviting private schools around the country to participate in the first run of The Justice CORPS (May 2019 is the goal), we have a special offer for the very first one who steps forward with courage…
A beautiful development with the Justice CORPS Initiative is to now give that first school the opportunity to produce a short (3 minute) movie about their experience with prioritizing transparency and reducing abuse/cover-ups through the Justice CORPS. Tell us the story! Schools that meet the Guidelines as laid out by the Independent Schools Task Force can balance out their tally of incidents. Schools that go a step beyond to utilize Restorative Justice can earn even higher scores for child safety. Schools that reduce abuse by 50% or more within three year cycles are awarded a Seal of Excellence in Child Safety.
It is sure to be a compelling story of how we can finally turn the tide on this. We’ll be happy to feature the institution that truly walks its talk as a leader among schools…
Both small and large-scale grant applications have already been submitted. Are you the filmmaker or film company that can document this important tale?
Please, reach out! (I’ll add your work into the budget line for larger grants)
Let’s show the world how it’s done.
Week 42: Long Overdue, Feeling the Love
Last week, the coastal Pacific Northwest braved (and enjoyed) unheard-of amounts of snow throughout the region. People were huddled into homes, snowed in and otherwise stranded without roads for all the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Kids even enjoyed a full week of snow days!
It makes this week’s warmth and thaw all the more meaningful now…
While we talking about thawing from the cold, it seems the ideal time to announce an important development in the structure of The Justice CORPS.
Now, for those who are new/er to this effort, you would have to understand that this model to correct for institutional abuse and its cover-up was first drafted in July 2018. Since then, it has undergone four major updates and revisions. Each time, it has been proposed to Lawrence Academy of Groton, MA, where accounts of very recent abuse cover-ups are still taking place.
Change happens one way or another, as well all know. So, whether a certain school is ready to step up to accountability and brave leadership is a different story. The more compelling piece for this week in mid-February is how the model is evolving and finding broader-reaching support.
Inviting you all to take a look at the new Justice CORPS Initiative. For nation-wide, institutional change that is long overdue. Enjoy!
Week 40: Birthings . . .
I was honored to enjoy a lengthy, in-depth and inspiring conversation with two women doing incredible work for Independent Schools this week. Thanks again to National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) President, Donna Orem & Vice President of Media, Myra McGovern, based in Washington, DC.
Updates will be posted soon . . .
For now, here are the final recommendations from the Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct, as shared by Myra McGovern; both women are members of the Task Force.
Week 39: Growth Curves & Coping Mechanisms
We are beginning the 39th week of the public phase of The Amends Project! Most parents will recognize this now resembles a human gestation cycle . . . might we be birthing something important, here?
This past weekend, I hosted the 4th “Raising Sexually Healthy Kids” seminar in my hometown in NW Washington state. I adore my work. Spending hours with parents who are so eager to recognize where they’ve come from, and how they can strive to do better by their own kids is awe-inspiring.
A theme that came up was our willingness to acknowledge to our kids when we have messed up or fallen short of our own ideals. We discussed the long-term gift of modeling to our kids this healthy relationship behavior and even shifting the power dynamic to allow them a fuller space in the family.
As I reflected on the experience, I naturally got to thinking about Lawrence Academy and the issue of cover-ups of abuse on high school campuses. What is the growth curve for these institutions?
The biggest thing that came to mind was Coping Mechanisms. I am also reading a book that references the idea that “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” (see also, “How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen & Marshall Goldsmith). These speak to the idea that a certain behavior works for a time – and then – if we cling to it, the same behavior starts to stall our progress and/or even destroy us.
It may have helped institutions survive decades ago, to compulsively conceal any terrible incident that happened on campus. We weren’t as connected then, as a species. School leaders didn’t know if theirs was the only school where these horrible abuses were taking place. The instinct was to hide the truth. People were clearly scared – and their choices reflected the poor response.
As a coping mechanism, this may have offered a temporary reprieve and way to cope with this painful reality…
Yet, by now in 2019, the coping mechanism itself has proven destructive. Hiding the reality of these incidents from families, faculty and the public has severely weakened schools. Every time the rug is peeled back to reveal what was swept beneath – everyone connected to these places shudders. Sweeping more recent truths under there is both confusing and messy, to say the least.
Of course, seeking to only minimize the events, or discredit those who reveal them, or frantically superimpose a misleading/false story (“everything is fine now!”) only has weakened schools further.
This behavior helped these long-standing institutions to survive an era when child abuse was secretive and shameful and better responses were entirely out of reach. Now, in the plain light of awareness, continuing that behavior is stalling and retarding growth. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, as Marshall Goldsmith says.
What and Where is There? Where is this healthy, new place schools must now go? Transparency and Accountability, as represented in The Justice CORPS.
From Hiding —> Airing Out
From Pressuring Families into Silence —> Allowing Them Full Access to Their Rights
From Pretending All is Well —> Taking a Hard Look at How Schools Are Responding
From False Messages to Families —> Trackable Records of What Happens in the Wake of Abuse
From Remaining Isolated as a School Regarding Abuse —> Going Toward Connection to Create a Better Response Together
From Making These Decisions Behind Closed Doors —> Opening Up The Conversation to Include All Stakeholders
If you were the leader/public representative of an educational institution, would you want to know the preferences of the families whose children enroll at your school? Would you feel willingness to act according to those preferences?
If you were dealing with the intense repercussions of the surfacing of decades of silencing (and even oversaw one yourself, when it came to a member of your family), would you want to continue with the old way that created the problem – or would you feel compelled to try something new?
What would encourage you to break from negative tradition to embrace a necessary stage of growth for the league?
Might the inner conflict of “claiming all is well” and “knowing I was very close to a recent cover-up” be uncomfortable enough to inspire action?
What else would?
. . . What if families and faculty and alumni were expressing a steady stream of discontent with the old way and the strong desire to be included in the decision to accept a new system? What if you heard from them Every Day? Would you eventually see the rightness of that choice?
Independent Schools have reached a crucial point in their Growth Curve. Either make the leap and change now or let more-of-the-same bring them all down. Let’s make the leap now, together…
Tell Dan Scheibe and Bruce MacNeil this needs to be a public conversation, with a vote on where the school goes. Your Vote.
Dan Scheibe: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce MacNeil: email@example.com
Week 38: A User’s Guide
Hello, and Welcome to The Amends Project & Justice CORPS Movement!
I recognize the number of visitors to the site has suddenly spiked. Fantastic. Not knowing who you are (only how many), I thought it would be wise to lay out a nice, brief-yet-comprehensive overview of what this is. I will speak to a general population of concerned parents, reporters, educators and/or child advocates of all kinds.
Please keep in mind this first of three main points:
- I am doing this because I care.
What is the issue?
Institutional cover-up of child abuse on high school campuses. It is centered on Lawrence Academy of Groton, Massachusetts – yet extends to address the problem throughout the Independent School League (New England) and beyond to the west coast of the United States.
This is, sadly, not a past-tense issue. Since The Amends Project went public in May 2018, a number of people have come forward to say that cover-ups are still happening at Lawrence Academy (see FAQ’s for more on the school). Accounts are recorded from 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017. Notably, and not surprisingly, these stories have not gone to the school itself, who has enacted the cover-ups; Not even to their privately hired law firm of investigators.
Headmaster Dan Scheibe assured us in a public statement that things that happened in the 1990’s would never happen on campus today.
There may be truth in saying that exact cover-up would not repeat itself now. Of course, what would happen is always speculation. What we know for fact is that a document came to the press – again, after the Amends Project went public – that recounted sexual assault by a student very close in family to the current administration which had been improperly handled and subsequently covered up, putting more kids at risk.
I went ahead and addressed this with Dan Scheibe over remote video conference in June 2018. I watched body language as he spoke. He said, “We are aware of this – and if you have any questions or concerns, I can direct you to Paul [Lannon, attorney for Lawrence Academy].” Do I have any concerns?!
I did, of course, follow up with Paul Lannon. I shared the scanned document of the letter and asked, “Is this true? Is any part of it true?”
I am yet to get a response.
The Lowell Sun, The Boston Globe and every member of the Lawrence Academy faculty has access to it. School officials sent me a Cease & Desist letter following my contact with faculty members regarding the incident (now, what does that action say?)
Which brings us to the second point.
2. I persist in this because people continue to tell me it is an ongoing problem.
Is this about you getting money?
I absolutely expect a settlement – (I, as a former student, have a history with the school) in accordance with the opinion of legal experts – not the opinion of school leaders. That issue doesn’t go anywhere until it is addressed. But for now, that must be a conversation for another time. It is between me and the school (well, and all the petition-signers).
I am setting that matter aside, for now, to tend to the more pressing issue: making sure cover-ups of child abuse don’t happen again.
How do you know they are doing anything wrong? How can a school with proclaimed “safety policies” even do cover-ups?
The answer is outlined right here in their Reporting Policies:
Let’s read that line carefully together, one more time: “The school determines whether to investigate the matter internally or whether an external entity (such as law enforcement or an outside consultant) should be involved.”
Again: The School Determines whether to handle things internally or whether an external entity should be involved.
One More Time: The School Determines whether to handle things internally or to involve law enforcement.
The school decides.
Implicit in this language is the suggestion that the school can override a child or family’s rights by a simple decision. Hence, the ability to give a family member of staff a different set of accountability standards than other students might have in a comparable situation.
The policy is written to protect the interest of the school. Protecting the reputation of the school has become a conflict of interest with protecting the rights and safety of students and their families. It is time to resolve that conflict on a broad scale.
So, you have a solution?
I have a carefully created model, which has been reviewed by numerous professionals, edited, revised and updated four times since July 2018.
I have the willingness to devote .25 time over 18 months to getting The Justice CORPS pilot program off the ground for the 2019-2020 school year. I have a sister school on the west coast in mind to run the program simultaneously, so we can learn as much as possible about the model. I have a short list of possible mediators to ease communications between the school and myself. I have the support of a few established child safety organizations who can oversee the initial run of the program.
Oh, I also have a lot of experience – as a mentor, sexuality educator, Founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit youth development organization, success in writing and receiving project grants, three (remarkable) dedicated Advisors (meet them HERE) and a number of new connections in the field of child abuse prevention and advocacy to help see it through.
I am ready to go.
So, what is stopping this?
Communication from school leaders has stopped. They want an indeterminate amount of time to “look into it” (decades-old issues from a man no longer employed). Time to talk about that “Independent Investigation”…
A bit of context here: In late 2016, I retained an attorney (the most experienced in the field) to represent me in a case against Lawrence Academy. In mid-2017, he sent a letter to the school demanding $2,000,000 in settlement.
Then, I soon recognized the approach violated a number of my principles. I learned there would be no acknowledgement, and we would use fear to get results. I was pressured to make a case for my own in/sanity and cautioned that my “seeming really together” was going to make this a tough sell. I stopped. I protected my own self-respect. I thought of the kids. I stepped off that path.
I attempted Restorative Justice, but school leaders actually cancelled our scheduled circle while I was on the plane flying east. The process was woefully incomplete.
They later offered me 1% with a confidentiality clause. I balked. They offered 3%, same criteria. Absolutely not. (FYI: I am currently holding firm at 20% of demand – a bit less than what I carefully calculated as my losses and damages)
Then, the effort went public.
Another former student has come forward and decided to sue the perpetrator and the school. Bravo, I say. I offer my complete support and respect for each to choose the best path for themselves in this situation. It is also important that the former employee finally be on the sex offender registry. So, I am grateful that her effort will likely achieve this.
Lawrence Academy hired Sanghavi Law Firm to “investigate” in an effort to support their side of that specific case in court.
The internal report has no bearing on me, my alternative effort, or on positive reforms. I can verify that many former students refuse to participate, largely because of broken trust. Most importantly, I have asked attorney Paul Lannon to send verification of the scope of the investigation (word is – they are only looking into the former employee, not school officials) and the agreement to share the contents without any editing by current school leaders.
Again, I am yet to hear or see any of that verification.
~ ~ ~
Phew. Ok, that’s the rough part. If you’ve come this far, it means that you, too, must care about seeing this systemic problem transformed. Now, the exciting part…
Current Headmaster and President of Trustees have turned down the Justice CORPS proposal three times. They don’t see the need, they say. Paul Lannon claims there is no problem (isn’t a “problem” always relative, though? Surely this is not a problem for school leaders – yet, it is plainly a very significant problem for any family whose child may face abuse on this or other campuses).
They are entitled to their opinion. The thing is: We All Are.
I have been advocating for right action to protect students at Lawrence Academy for over 25 years. I am now in my 40s. I invite you to read my fuller story HERE. I am committed to seeing this through to completion. I am convinced that the time is ripe. This is the time, and this is the place to begin a new era of how these things are handled.
For another point of context, please see this article in which New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald assisted in dealing a new kind of ruling to St. Paul’s – that the school must pay for a private “overseer” for five years.
Like a gift that keeps on giving.
This move has direct echoes of the Justice CORPS model. Only, instead of one attorney doling out oversight as a kind of punishment (though, I would say, an appropriate one), this model provides a trained group of non-affiliated adults to oversee abuse incidents, before school even starts. It is a preventative model.
This is the first step in an overhaul of systems that have been structured to allow for secrecy. The Justice CORPS starts at Lawrence Academy and then extends to include more and more schools. The quality of response is ranked and measured for parents to review. Schools have the chance to earn “Recovery Points” by demonstrating excellent care. The Independent School Task Force of 2017 laid out clear recommendations for how schools respond to incidents of abuse on high school campuses. Right now, these are filed away as static recommendations. The Justice CORPS finally puts a level of enforcement and measurement to the Task Force’s great work by making school responses trackable and measurable.
Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? If you are a parent and/or a faculty member, wouldn’t you like to be part of the school AND be among the first families to enjoy the benefits of such a solution?
Somebody needs to take the first step to set a new standard. Here it is. We’ve found it and the path is all laid out. Many, highly intelligent and experienced professionals around the country (and even right there on Lawrence Academy campus) want to see it happen.
Maybe you do, too.
When it comes to protecting our kids, we all have a say. Especially when it’s our own kids.
That is why I am asking Dan Scheibe and Bruce MacNeil to give all current parents, trustees, faculty and alumni (including any and all donors) the opportunity to VOTE on whether to participate in this pilot program. Starting TOMORROW! Say you’d like to see a vote on putting this system into place.
Tell them your kids are worth it.
Which brings us to the Third & final point:
3. I insist on the Justice CORPS because these harms are preventable – but only if we all insist on a larger oversight structure to place the needs of students and families above all else.
Let Them Vote!
call headmaster Dan Scheibe (978) 448-1526
Email Trustee Bruce MacNeil firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle of Week 37: Better Yet – an Anonymous Voting Period: 1/22 – 2/1/19
January 16, 2019
Dan, Bruce, Paul,
First, I regretfully acknowledge your choice to remain silent following my requests, even as your stated goal is resolution.
This is an important conversation for the future of the school, the league, and most importantly – the kids.
I am asking that you put this decision, whether to participate in a run of the Justice CORPS pilot program for the 2019-2020 school year, to your current parents and trustees. Better yet, let’s open up a voting period where all stakeholders may have a say. Instead of a real-time count, let’s talk about the possibility of an anonymous voting system over a period of 10 days: January 22 – February 1, 2019.
I have come to understand that an anonymous system may be necessary to minimize social risk. It is my hope that Lawrence Academy one day becomes a place where speaking one’s opinion on sensitive issues inspires no fear of retribution. In the meantime, we have many tools at our disposal to achieve a fair count, while allowing people the comfort they need to speak honestly.
We may also then have an online, moderated forum for questions to be posted and answered for all to see. Transparency. Trust.
With your willingness to cooperate, I will contact MassKids or Child USA to request an oversight of the vote and its system. Lawrence Academy trustees may be sent a code to allow access, while parents are given another. The same code will apply to all within each voting category.
I also suggest that your alumni (of which I am one) be given a voice in what happens at their alma mater. Perhaps the simplest criteria must be – all who give or are asked to give financial resources (regardless of amount) to the school have the right to a say in its future.
Keep in mind, my goal is not to make anyone wrong or weaken ties. Quite the opposite. My goal is the preservation and long-term safety of students – in fact, the profound strengthening of Lawrence Academy and its community.
I ask for your respectful engagement as soon as possible.
Vanessa Osage, ‘96
Week 37: Time to Review Our Rights!
Monday January 14, 2019
Hello Dan & Bruce ~
Just sending a courtesy reminder that I have asked for a response today, January 14, regarding allowing your families and trustees to vote on The Justice CORPS Initiative.
Just twenty minutes during your Parents Association meeting on January 22, 2019 to give voice to the families who entrust their children to Lawrence Academy. This decision effects them, and their children in many ways.
Also, let me be clear – I am setting aside the issue of our settlement, for now, while we tend to the more pressing issue before us. Again, time is of the essence, as this pilot program needs ample research and outreach to be most effective for the 2019-2020 school year. I’ve already extended the deadline from January 3 to February 4, 2019.
I’d also like to remind you to consider how much can be gained by venturing such a program. Your students will be empowered to know their rights and how to respond when any incidents happen on campus. Parents will be able to make well-informed decisions. You, as administrators, will have the ease of knowing that all details are on the table, with the chance to address touchy situations thoroughly while they are still small and manageable. It is an opportunity to shine as an institution.
It is my deep hope that you will rise to the occasion.
I look forward to your reply.
Vanessa Osage, ’96
While we wait, I thought it would be fun to do a little preview of one of the key aspects of The Justice CORPS itself. Time to review our rights! First, can you imagine?! All 14-19 year old high school students starting every year knowing exactly what their legal rights are. Not just their rights within their set school, but their federal and state-level, legally protected rights. Pretty wonderful, yes?
Of course, there is more to the model. The trust to allow families free access to their options whenever something challenging happens on campus, from minor theft or harassment up to more serious assaults. No matter who does it, families get to choose how to respond: whether to investigate, press charges or find another route. Full decision-making power resting in the adults whose children are attending high school.
I invite all visitors again to review the Justice CORPS Proposal 12.28.18 . You will now find a summary to start, with full details following.
Here We Go:
You have the right to know how well schools handle sensitive issues of violation and/or abuse when your child is away at school.
You have the right to demand a higher level of service from those who accept tuition to provide an educational service.
You have the right to know the opportunities presented to this institution in full, unobstructed form – especially when they impact the quality of your child’s life.
You have the right to express your preferences and choices, as a consumer of educational services.
You (as faculty of this or any school) have the right to express discontent at a certain response or system that has harmed young people in the – very recent – past.
You have the right to express an opinion, to challenge a policy, and to still enjoy job security.
You have the right to the full, unedited, true story of these incidents, from all sides without recourse.
You have the right to live free from fear while at work.
You have the right to job security and an opinion/voice at the same time.
You have the right to live free from fear.
You have the right to feel secure in your housing situation, if you have chosen to live on campus as part of employment.
You have the right to communicate with absolutely anyone, as an adult.
You have the right to decide for yourself, the quality of my character and the nature of my intentions, by watching my actions.
You have the right to be a determining factor in how your place of employment evolves and grows.
You have the right to speak up and to still live free from fear.
You have the right to question the choices of those in decision-making positions.
You have a right to fulfill your calling as an educator, a coach, a counselor, a librarian, an advocate for equity, and to live free from fear while doing so.
You have a right to get as much information as possible about issues that effect the quality of your child’s experience.
You have the right to think for yourself and draw your own conclusions, when learning of a complex and important social justice issue.
You have a right – whether you are a parent, a faculty or staff member, an administrator, an alumna or a concerned citizen connected to Lawrence Academy – to have a say in whether the school adopts a new program to oversee the rights and protections of students.
Let them vote.
January 22, 2019 @ 6:30 pm
End of Week 36: Growing in Strength & Momentum
Movement is gaining momentum now in 2019 as we welcome another high quality Advisor to The Amends Project.
Mike Rinaldi knows what it means to stand up for what is right, and endure despite resistance or consequences, for the sake of kids. He is currently Principal of Westhill High School in Stamford, Connecticut, where he was born and raised.
The Amends Project has been blessed with Mike’s insights and wise encouragement. Please see our People page to read Mike’s full bio, from the MassKids Conference Speakers of 2018.
To learn about Mike Rinaldi’s journey through the trials of speaking up and staying true to his convictions, please see this article from the Stamford Advocate: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/amp/Angela-Carella-I-m-not-talking-in-private-any-6298115.php
And this one, on the eventual rewards of his persistence: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/amp/Rinaldi-gets-big-reward-as-student-advocate-with-11101653.php
A big, hearty Welcome to Mike Rinaldi!
Week 36: The Legacy of This Moment
As we get into January and 2019, I find myself thinking often of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. With his memorial holiday coming up, I realize this day has become a personal anniversary of significant efforts in my own professional life, for my mission. It was the first time I led a training of all-male mentors in the coming of age program, the date of significant Board meetings I’d held, the weekend of a seminar for sexual health and raising young people. I recognize this is often a season of focused and concentrated efforts in my work. An awareness of Dr. King’s life and efforts is very much with me this time of year.
Like so many, I have drawn inspiration from the man and his message. Maybe, even more than the powerful messages, I find resonance in the way he delivered them. I continue to admire the fierce clarity with which he could articulate an injustice, paired with a higher call to our humanity: the call to actively live a life of passionate purpose. His fury seemed forged in a fire of the beauty he knew the world could be. I have a deep, heartfelt regard for his way.
His words are sprinkled throughout the site, a living document to my own, relatively small, efforts at justice. MLK quotes show up in cards and emails sent by friends who feel for how much I have given and sacrificed on this long road to justice. There is something eternal and universal in what he still offers us – as insights into the nature injustice in all its forms.
I quoted him myself at 23, when I stood on the Lawrence Academy auditorium stage – 7 years into my efforts to at least remove a perpetrator and known predator from campus: “An injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The way I see it, we don’t always know exactly which injustice we will face up-close in our lifetimes, until we are staring it straight in the face. That is when we have a choice. While Dr. King’s journey was to confront something so daunting and tragic, it seemed insurmountable to many – his lessons and guidance ring true in every form of injustice humans come across.
He asked people to look at a dark and disturbing situation in our world – one that was quietly tolerated and rarely questioned at the time. It was woven into the fabric of our country’s beginnings. Pervasive as it was, he still implored us to look at it – to assess it through our own moral lens. It was a dynamic some benefitted from, yet at the great and terrible expense of many.
Did some refuse his message? Were there those who sought to smear his good name so an existing dynamic could be preserved? Did those in power seek to make others afraid of a person with a contradictory suggestion?
While there is no comparison to the exact social ill Dr. King confronted (though there is an important intersection of race and child abuse – see Week 26 for more), I believe that all people recognize injustice once they are close enough to see it clearly. It rattles the system and stalls the breath. Just after this moment of recognition is when the true road to “love correcting that which revolts against love” begins…
Right now, in 2019, across the Independent School League of New England, a few protected officials have the power to decide whether incidents of child abuse will be investigated – or even reported – without oversight. Many students suffer a secondary blow by those who claim to care for and protect them. Young people and families are reeling from the aftershock of learning, in the wake of abuse, they then must fear the loss of their investment in their child’s future. They are enduring subtle but real pressures to deny their own rights, stay quiet, and “go along” with preserving an image of perfection – at the expense of their own health and sanity.
It may be insidious. It may not affect you or your child right now. But your child will go on to colleges and universities where young people have suffered this secondary betrayal. They will grow and socialize and learn among them. The effects of that dynamic cannot be isolated – eventually all things are connected. Even if some families’ silence temporarily keeps school/s more comfortable following abuse, the practice is defining the kind of world all kids are growing into. They will be every child’s eventual colleagues, spouses, neighbors and friends.
I’m reminded by wise confidants and encouragers that our actions toward justice often have ripple effects we cannot see. I have been meditating on motion and movements and the nature of big, inevitable shifts. How does resistance and privilege yield to an expression of health the world so dearly wants to bring about?
“Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”
Monday January 21, 2019 is the national day of honor and remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his lifetime, he worked diligently to transform a system he recognized as unjust, with great negative consequences for those without decision-making power.
I am offering to work with you to transform a system that has harmed many people in the Independent School League for decades. You did not create this system, but only inherited it. You know I have created a new system, in the Justice CORPS, to address this power imbalance; and I implore you again, to give your families and trustees the opportunity to learn about and weigh in on this opportunity.
I see a higher future for the Independent School League. You have the chance, now, to be an exceptional leader in walking a new path for the wellbeing of young people. I will facilitate this program at Lawrence Academy, alongside a sister school on the west coast, for the 2019-2020 school year. I only need your cooperation.
The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a scheduled meeting of Parents Association Families, some of whom, I understand, are also Trustees. I ask you to designate 20 minutes of your scheduled meeting to allow a representative to speak to the Justice CORPS Initiative, answer questions, and then hold a vote.
Those who give their resources, and most importantly their children, to the care of Lawrence Academy deserve to weigh in on this decision.
Tuesday January 22, 2019
Giving All Parents & Community Members a Vote on The Justice CORPS
6:40 – 7:00 pm EST
There are two weeks until the nation takes a day of rest to honor a man who spoke consistently, passionately and lovingly about the necessity of Justice.
In his honor, I ask you to give this effort a sincere moment’s consideration before those who it will impact most.
I will not attend, but remain entirely willing to communicate in the days prior. I am also willing to provide facilitation, resources and any other support you might need.
Communication is the basis of understanding, and therefore, potential progress. In honor of my decades of service to the betterment of the school, I ask for your respectful engagement and reply by Monday January 14, 2019.
Vanessa Osage, ’96
I’d like to close today’s post with a new collection of high-minded words from the Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?
There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Week 35: New Year, New Advisors
Though she has been a support and advisor for months now, today we officially welcome Abby Yanow of the Boston Facilitators Roundtable to The Amends Project. Welcome Abby!
Abby Yanow is a Leadership coach and Organizational Development (OD) consultant. She coaches managers and directors to lead change, to better engage their teams and to improve their management skills. She also helps leaders understand the organizational dynamics that impact people’s performance. Abby is known for her skill in facilitating group process and learner-centered workshops. She has facilitated retreats for senior leadership teams, team development, visioning, strategic planning, cross-organization collaboration and focus groups.
Abby facilitates meetings to improve collaboration and innovation across organizations and among stakeholders. Her meetings are designed to help people work collectively and to share their knowledge, which enhances their ability to problem-solve and to identify solutions. Abby helps people take a systemic approach to problem solving, by understanding the connections and the impact of the individual components on the whole. Abby is skilled at helping people surface their underlying assumptions, in order to generate buy-in and to create sustainable action plans.
Since 2001, Abby has served as President of the Boston Facilitators Roundtable/ OD Network (organizational development), which is a professional community of organizational consultants and coaches who work on leadership, team and organizational development. Under her leadership, the BFR received the 2015 Outstanding Regional OD (Organizational Development) Network Award. Abby has a Master’s degree in Education and Intercultural Communication. She is an ICF certified coach (International Coaching Federation) and is certified in Organizational Development (National Training Labs).
See the newly published People page, for a compilation of those working toward positive change through The Amends Project.
Welcoming a New Year, 2018 – 2019
“When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Lawrence Academy, Please, Let me help you. I know you can rise to this moment and take a step toward sincere transparency, while empowering youth and families. Even if you do not see a problem, I hope you could agree – we all see an opportunity.
Gather your Trustees in January 2019, keep the doors open, and talk about how we can move this forward!
2018, The Year in Review
WE CAN DO THIS! Here’s to a Year of Courageous Growth Throughout the Independent School League – Starting NOW with Lawrence Academy of Groton, MA
Ask Board of Trustees President Bruce MacNeil to hold an Open Door Board of Trustees Meeting in January 2019. For a peaceful, constructive conversation on how we, as parents, faculty, alumni and staff and child advocates can keep all kids safer: email@example.com
Week 34: Tying up Loose Ends – Reasons & Resolutions
2018 is rapidly winding down to a close. With this, I thought it was time to tie up loose ends, and address a question that has come up from various sources. Sometimes, as a suggestion: separate out your efforts for restitution from your efforts at positive change. Other times, as a doubt: is keeping these two things connected hampering your efforts?
I have pondered on this all along the way. On the urging of my attorney friend, I attempted in August to first settle – and then come back to positive change with the school. Settle first, he suggested. This is the idea of “settlement”; it allows the issue and those involved to settle down. I wrote very detailed agreements for a settlement of 25% of demand, with a promise to come back to positive change (I called them “Change-Making Conversations”) two months later.
What happened? School officials refused to answer my calls (even pretending to be “on vacation”) and submitted defaming comments about me to the press. Sigh.
Every time I revisit this, my instincts and my principles tell me they must go together. So, here, I offer my own countdown to the Top Ten Reasons Why.
The Top Ten Reasons Why Restitution + Reform = Right Resolution
10. Because, I was only 16 when I confronted the Lawrence Academy employee and child molester, to make sure he never harmed anyone else again
9. Because, when the school failed to take action, I started showing up in the headmaster’s office (at 16) to see that something positive was done
8. Because, I had to come back another 7 seven times annually, until they finally stopped exposing new kids to the risk of a documented child abuser living on campus
7. Because, I was an A/B student before that initial confrontation – and then dropped rapidly to C’s/D’s, and even had to attend summer school, after being sent away for seeking protection and positive change
6. Because it took that much effort, years of my young life, to achieve what should have taken those in ‘power’ five difficult minutes
5. Because, I spent most of my twenties running away, and dealing with abdominal pain/surgeries, instead of optimistically attending college and building a career
4. Because, despite our philosophical differences, Attorney Mitchell Garabedian is the undeniable expert in the field; and if he is confident we would settle in at least “the low to mid-six figures”, even before detailed documents showed up, then I am holding firm at that amount
3. Because, current headmaster Dan Scheibe promised me I would be safe when we first spoke by phone in early 2018; then he and other school officials enacted institutional abuse on a large scale: cancelling the Restorative Justice Circle while I was flying east, violating legally binding confidentiality agreements, invasion of privacy, defamation, spreading terrible, unverified rumors about my family (slander), and threatening to arrest me for trespass while attending Open House as a registered guest and alumna
2. Because, instead of just taking my big settlement by means of fear, I have worked diligently by researching, collaborating, editing and revising, to craft a solution to a pervasive problem – a problem pleading for attention across the independent school league – in creating the Justice CORPS
1. Most importantly, because, as a mentor, teacher, coach and guide to young and old, I always remember that my very life is a teaching tool.* To be effective in my life’s work, I have to live in alignment with my values, knowing that my actions speak far louder than my words. I teach by how I live. In this, I would not ever say to a young person embarking on a journey for social justice, “Spend decades of your life working to right wrongs and protect those around you, but deny your own needs and experience.” No. I would only ever say to a young person in my care, “Yes, spend as long as it takes to see that you get the results you know in your heart are necessary to make this world a better, safer place. And, you absolutely remember this – defend your own rights, needs and wellbeing along the way.”
* See: “Ascending, On Being a Mentor”, my published essay in Circles on the Mountain, 2016
I also understand that some may look at this effort, recognize “conflict” and recoil away. I accept that can be the nature of dynamics among people. We all need to feel safe to stand with and for something. Yet, I ask you – who better? Who, When and How can we best achieve resolution?
While we’re on the topic of “Why”, I’d like to share my reasoning behind another important choice in The Amends Project. I have chosen to keep details about the incident with the former employee private [the school violated this right by printing details in a public statement without my or others’ consent]. Why am I making that choice?
- Even when someone has endured a hardship, they still have a right to their dignity. In this day, when so many advertise their successes and apparent ‘perfections’ online, there can be a strange flip-side: once someone is revealed as having suffered, they are cast into some lesser-than, spectacle category. Like breaking the code of ‘present-only-perfection’ means it’s now a free-for-all. I do not support this. The truth is – everyone has suffered something. Even those who have suffered have the right to decide what they do with their personal information. I am affirming the rights of all people who have endured anything by my choice.
- People have a visceral response to private details – and this reaction is what lingers. Surely, most of you have encountered the press that lavishes in the grim and shocking details from other private school abuse stories. Do you remember the context in which the events happened? Probably not. You (as a human) are only rattled by physiological impact of having read those details. Being disturbed is the main impact.
- If someone is only disturbed by the news, they lose the subtly and more importantly, the larger, surrounding picture. I am asking all visitors to The Amends Project to see the larger picture around this story. After all, it’s not about me. This is about a pattern of secrecy, complacency and disregard that has harmed far too many, and for too long. It continues to this day. It is the systemic silencing around these events that needs updating now.
** Take a look at the newly updated Justice CORPS Proposal! **
Lastly, I ask you again – who better to see this change through to full transformation? Who else would recognize the problem from both the inside and the outside as clearly? Who would endure the negative consequences of the institution’s resistance to change? Who would persist after being mistreated for decades, to keep coming back to say, “We need to do something about this.” ?
OK. Hopefully, now all these points are neatly cleared up before the end of the year.
Week 33: Put This Opportunity to Your Current Parents & Trustees
Bruce, Dan, Paul,
Week 32: The Prophetic Imagination
From an interview with Krista Tippett and scholar & theologian, Walter Brueggemann:
“They imagine their contemporary world differently…
I just think, they are moved the way every good poet is moved, to have to describe the world differently, according to the gifts of their insight.
And of course, in their own time, and every time since…
The people that control the power structure do not know what to make of them. So, they characteristically try to silence them. What power people always discover is – you cannot finally silence poets. They just keep coming at you in threatening and transformative ways.”
– Walter Brueggemann
December 22, 2018
Bruce, Dan, Paul,
I understand it will be hard to come to conclusion over the holiday break. Therefore, I ask that you hold an Open Door Trustee Meeting to discuss the Justice CORPS Initiative by Thursday January 4 or Monday January 7, 2019 at the latest.
Again, the deadline is necessary because – in order to run the model successfully – we will need a number of months for research and development to be fully prepared for the 2019-2020 school year. As I said on December 18, 2018, I’ve extended the start date now to February 4, 2019.
Not up for discussion is whether the school has a problem or has done anything wrong. The sole focus must be: Will participation in the Justice CORPS Pilot Program enhance the safety and wellbeing of students; and will the decision to be a leader in transparency and trust-worthiness become a fiscally responsible choice for Lawrence Academy.
I acknowledge your individual opinions about the necessity of the policy change. Yet, I remind you, that a number of key stakeholders – including all current parents – deserve to have their opinions counted, en masse, most importantly. This gesture will demonstrate your willingness to make decisions in a respectful, responsive and honorable manner. Lawrence Academy is, after all, a public interest educational institution.
Key Points to Keep in Mind:
- I am willing to arrange for a third party facilitator (whose names I suggested by email) to act as intermediary for communications between the school and myself during the 18 months from February 2019 – June 2020.
- I am also willing to coordinate with MassKids or Child USA, to oversee implementation of The Justice CORPS for the first school year, 2019-2020.
- Lastly, I am willing to find a Seattle-area independent, private boarding school, to run the model simultaneously as a sister school in the pilot program. I am confident this approach will teach us as much as possible about the strengths and weaknesses of the model.
I respect that you likely have concerns about the implications of such a change. I welcome the chance to learn more about them. I want to see the school take this moment of collective crisis among independent schools and rise to the opportunity it provides. As I recall from sitting in on Open House activities, this is one of the core philosophies of life and learning at Lawrence Academy: taking challenges and turning them into opportunities for growth.
I eagerly await your confirmation.
Vanessa Osage, ’96
Beginning Week 31: A New Conversation
It was two years ago this week that I retained attorney Mitchell Garabedian to represent me in a case against Lawrence Academy. That’s a lot of lifetime, two full years. Why did I not follow through on that path?
Well, I was acutely aware of what would be left in the wake of its conclusion. Sure, I would have gotten a nice, big settlement months ago, by now. But, what would have changed for the better? Given the tenor of my conversations with Lawrence Academy attorney Paul Lannon, I likely would have endured a good deal of dismissing and denying of my experience. Hi, Paul. My sanity would have been the focus of trials – as in either ‘not damaged enough’ or in pointing to ‘feelings’ as being cause for dismissal or discrediting.
I painfully learned last week that school officials have already tried to demonize me over the course of my alternate resolution efforts, scaring parents with false stories and stoking their fears with ‘us vs. her’ propaganda.
So many D-words on this long, and uncertain journey . . .
Most importantly, though, I thought of the kids who would come after me and my decision. If I’d proceeded with the legal path as it was laid out in 2016: “scaring the school into settling”, how would the next kid fare, who came forward to say something bad had happened on campus?
Clearly, they would have endured MORE pressure to be quiet. Families would have faced MORE intimidation and secret bargaining efforts, while their rights were brushed aside. If my ‘representation’ scared the school into releasing big money via fear and punishment, most likely, young students after me would have suffered further.
The thing I see in all of this is —- These Harms Are Preventable.
Sure, there’s something about the turning of the year, and my birthday, and the dark, quiet of almost-winter that gets me contemplative. I stepped off the legal path because I knew nothing would change as a result of following it to conclusion. The current system would have only been reinforced. All along, I have most wanted for this tendency of Lawrence Academy to, 1) hide the evidence; 2) control the story; 3) pressure good people into quietly ‘going along’ with their actions… I have needed to see this CHANGE.
My simplest reflection is expressed this way:
The Conversation, 1994 – 2017
Me: “Hey, let’s do the right thing here.”
LA: “Go away, we’re fine.”
(a child molester is finally removed after I come to speak in 2001, the school asks people with information to come forward in 2016…)
The Conversation, 2018
Me: “Hey, let’s make this right some other way, and then talk about positive change.”
LA: “Here’s 3%, but don’t tell anyone, and we disagree about any wrong-doing.”
Me: “No. We need to do the right thing here.”
LA: “You’re unreasonable! Everything is fine now! Go away.”
Me: “So, even though you’ve given no acknowledgement or restitution, I’ve worked really hard to create a system that would prevent these kinds of harms in the future – and I’m willing to devote 5-10 hours/week for 18 months to implement it for the 2019-2020 school year. We just have to come to agreement soon, because I’ll need that much time for additional research, planning, etc.”
LA: “We’re looking into it. There’s no cover-up problem. We won’t talk to you until our [internal report] is complete.”
Me: “And what’s that timeline?”
LA: “We can’t say, of course. They need an indeterminate amount of time to ‘gather facts'”
Me: “Well, people have been sharing many stories of recent cover-ups with me, and few are even willing to participate in that internal report. I think it’s a dead-end (and a waste of resources). What if we just come back to ‘whether there is a problem’ later and get working on the solution now?”
Me: “What would parents want? Who do we serve here?”
The New Conversation, New Year 2019
Me: I am eager to get to work on implementing this solution. I ask you to settle with me out of court by December 31, 2018 at just 20% of the attorney’s demand, and agree to participate in The Justice CORPS. I have arranged for a skilled mediator to support communications between us during that time; I’ve lined up an independent boarding school on the west coast to run the pilot program alongside Lawrence Academy; and I’ve brought in an established child abuse prevention organization to oversee this first run of the system.
LA: Ok. Even though we are not ready to admit any wrongdoing, we want to move forward in a spirit of reconciliation. We will settle with you and participate in this program for accountability and transparency. We want to earn the trust of parents, families and our donors. We are willing now to be leaders in demonstrating our ethic of care and responsibility. We accept.
Week 30: Thirty Weeks!
Today, I ask us to contemplate this image.
Then, for another simple contemplation… what would Independent School League families want? In regards to knowing how well schools respond when abuse happens on campus, would they be invested in having a system that tracks for quality response – and even ranks schools on their demonstrated care?
What might be the fiscal value of having such a system in place? What about trust as a wise investment?
Let’s ask all current parents, and those of alumni over the past three years. This will yield a robust sample size for data analysis.
Would families be more likely to invest in a school that participates in a system like The Justice CORPS?
Transparency. If it’s good enough for Harvard… might it be good enough for Lawrence Academy?
End of Week 29: Intervention Time!
** First, if you are a Trustee member, who received a message about cover-ups at Lawrence Academy, Welcome. I’m so glad you’re here. Please read on to understand what I am working to achieve here, for the benefit of all Lawrence Academy families. **
What is an intervention?
An intervention is a carefully planned move, by concerned people around someone struggling with addiction. The goal is to give a message of care by stepping in with a consistent presence, until the problem is faced and reconciled. When done by calm, steady measures, the person who is ill will eventually stop resisting treatment and relax into being helped.
“During the intervention, these people gather together to confront your loved one about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. The intervention:
- Provides specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on your loved one with the addiction and family and friends
- Offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines
- Spells out what each person will do if your loved one refuses to accept treatment”
. . . Wait, addiction? How does that relate to Lawrence Academy?
A key function of addiction is an underlying desire to control aspects of life beyond one’s reach. Whether the urge is to control (and suppress) unpleasant emotions through drugs or alcohol – or the shape of one’s body through eating disorders – or the behavior of a loved one through domestic violence… one common aspect of addiction is a desire for control.
Wasting donor resources on a dead-end investigation (that few will cooperate with because of a hostile environment/lack of trust), so that the school Can Control the Narrative – this is a sign of addictive behavior.
Of course, the beauty of moving through addiction is that, once we relinquish unhealthy control, we gain freedom.
So, how is Lawrence Academy acting out an addiction? They are deep, decades deep, into a destructive habit of taking all measures to control the outcome when abuse happens on campus. They have created a pattern of being untraceable (only phone calls to report incidents to families), intimidating families into silence (such as threats, both subtle and/or direct), bargaining to avoid repercussions (such as offering free tuition to make a problem go away).
Unfortunately, silence or complacency around these behaviors has allowed them to continue. There have been too many unintentional “enablers” and so, the problem has continued and worsened.
NOW IS THE TIME OF SHIFT.
People understand now that more damage has been done by these extreme measures. We understand that people must step in now and insist on recovery.
Remember, the beauty of moving through addiction is that, once we relinquish unhealthy control, we gain freedom.
In the case of Lawrence Academy, there is both freedom – and Trust – to be gained. When families are asked to send their children to live away from home, or even spend 80% of their waking day away from home, Trust is Crucial – and, Trust Must Be Earned.
From The Amends Project, to Attorney Paul Lannon:
Proposed Meeting Questions for Trustees of Lawrence Academy
- What would make it easier for the school to accept participation in The Justice CORPS initiative?
- What adjustments could we make to the model to allow you to accept? (keep in mind, the directing of sensitive information to non-affiliated adults outside the school is non-negotiable)
- If I secure an experienced mediator, to act as an intermediary between the school and myself for those 18 months, would you accept?
- If I can find a private, independent boarding school on the west coast to participate simultaneously, would this support your willingness to run the pilot at Lawrence?
- If I bring in strategic partners, such as MassKids or Child USA (I have been in communication with both), to oversee implementation of the model for the 2019-2020 school year, would you agree?
Most importantly, what would your families want? While there will be an increase in reporting initially, you will then have the chance to demonstrate your commitment to care, and have FEWER incidents of abuse at school over time.
I ask you to gather your Trustees with Voting status NOW. Open your door, address this issue in plain sight, and consider this “treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines”. The Justice CORPS.
Re-Distributing the Balance of Power, Protecting Kids & Families, The Justice CORPS
Tell them you want this positive change NOW!
Please direct all correspondence about the proposed Justice CORPS Initiative to Trustee Bruce MacNeil: firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 29: The Price & Cost of “Owning the Story”
Back in summer of 2018, Lawrence Academy officials decided to hire lawyers from the Sanghavi Group to make an internal report about abuses by former employee Peter Regis. The choice arose in response to a new lawsuit against Regis, following The Amends Project going public. In all written statements, school officials have referred to this as an “independent investigation”. Of course, they are paying these people (a lot of money) to report sensitive details to them. So, let’s face it, biases are clearly outlined here.
Then, for months, these lawyers have been approaching people who may be connected to the issue of child abuse and cover-ups at the school. They’ve followed them on social media and reached out to individuals to push them into sharing very sensitive information – with strangers hired by the school.
So, what has happened? Very little. Why? Well, humans are inherently wise enough to know that ACTIONS are the true indicator of trustworthiness. We respond to what we see play out in choices more than we do what is written in carefully crafted public statements. People of many ages, who suffered while at this school, have watched the ACTIONS of Lawrence Academy officials since The Amends Project story went public. Simply put – they have seen how Dan Scheibe, Bruce MacNeil and Paul Lannon have treated someone who came forward . . . and they’re saying, “No, thanks.”
So, now what?
Well, as coordinator of The Amends Project, I am the one holding the stories. People connected to this issue have watched my actions, and the school’s, and they have made their choice on which one will honor and hold and respond to these details best.
When Lawrence Academy officials offered me 1% of the attorney’s demand, but only if I’m quiet about it, I naturally declined. Not even 3% (without acknowledgement) and a confidentiality clause even gets close… They call this an “impasse”. I call it a lack of willingness to admit wrongdoing.
More accurately, the situation of former students, families and others Not Sharing Details with lawyers of the Sanghavi Group – while I hold many – is a truer impasse. Since language has been so muddied on this journey, let’s clarify, once again:
n. A road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac.
n. A situation that is so difficult that no progress can be made; a deadlock or a stalemate: reached an impasse in the negotiations.
In this way, maybe each have their place.
The path of paying sizable sums of money to Sanghavi, to be the one to hold all the sensitive information and relay to the school, has clearly reached a dead-end. It is a cul-de-sac where school officials continue to direct donor money into an effort (as a fellow alumni puts it) to “Control the Narrative” without any results. People are not sharing; and “looking into it” has failed as a path to clarity or resolution.
(Though, as a response by the school, “We’re looking into it” serves two functions: 1. a momentary, false sense of reassurance; 2. the impression that they are the authority and therefore, the ones to decide what happens next)
Perhaps, there is something of truth in calling our lack of progress an “impasse”. By my not simply accepting a tiny payout, without acknowledgement or promise of any change, I have created a situation so difficult that the school is experiencing its own impasse…
What is so hard?
I have wondered on this a few times – I can guess at the fear driving this position. If they did right by me (we’ll talk about The Justice CORPS later), then, they might have to do right by other people who came forward! My guess is they fear the opening of floodgates, and setting an expectation that they would make amends with all former students who were abused.
Let’s take a moment here. This is not a gold mining industry. This is not the diamond trade. This is not an oil company with layers of political nuance and alliances around the world…
This is a school. This is an institution that earns it income, its endowment, it donations – by CARING FOR KIDS.
So, while I recognize a stance of fear from the outside, I often ponder… Would that really be so bad? What if they did make right by people who suffered abuse while under their care?
What would be the harm?
(…and more importantly, to whom?)
Now it’s a parallel dance. I invite the school to ease into owning mistakes (this is how we learn from them!) and taking a brave step toward accountability and safety for kids in the future by participating in The Justice CORPS. Over these TWO YEARS without any settlement, I have made a safe space for people to share their stories – and created a template for a solution to the underlying problem; I am still willing to see it through.
I ask them to come toward me, offer fair settlement (we’re talking just 20% now) with agreement to demonstrate CARE In ACTION.
They are standing still. Their own impasse. Yet, what is playing out beyond the dance floor?
Has anyone actually experienced greater trust in the school throughout this process? Have school leaders earned more donors? (see Here) Have any families relaxed into knowing their kids would be safer? Have the futures of young people been Better preserved?
I have asked every one of the faculty and staff at Lawrence Academy to make a vote for the school settling with me at just 20% – no confidentiality clause – and agreement to participate in the Justice CORPS.
Secrecy and ongoing punishments (of those who speak out, in the hopes of this message going away) are creating more than an impasse. Anyone who understands addiction will tell you – that which you deny soon begins to take over your life until it becomes “unmanageable”. Continuing to direct the donations of families and philanthropists toward a dead-end is a mismanagement of resources. Never mind the collateral damages of broken trust and dis-engagement from alumni and future donors.
Take a step forward, Lawrence Academy?
Week 28: Giving Thanks
Even when we are tired and depleted beyond measure, when justice is delayed and denied, and when resistance to positive change has caused even more damage . . .
Gratitude. Gratitude . . .
to friends who stood beside and behind when facing a wrong was needed to make a right
to the friend who trusted and did what we were taught, and told an adult
to whomever staff heard, and acted, and believed leaders would do right
to the first of those who found me, to concur (#metoo) and thank me for the confrontation at 16
to the school friend who called every week of my subsequent year in exile, to remind me I was not forgotten or even truly lost
to the friend’s father, who convinced me to not run away at 17
to the open road, and its surprising graces and medicine
to college professors, who taught me the larger context of social justice and protecting human rights,
to west coast friends and loved ones who supported my long trek east to speak truth & bring a reckoning at 23
to the next round of those who found me, to concur (#metoo) and thank me for this bringing forth
to the boy who sat compelled in the auditorium, who became a man, and found me to speak so clearly in support
to the ways the body strives to protect us and then strengthen us, until it eventually heals us
to every place of sanity, health and love discovered afterward
to the inevitable gathering of molecules of social renewal that force a larger surfacing for healing,
to the Boston Globe investigative reporters, Mitchell Garabedian, and yes, all that the internet makes possible
to the creators & advancers of Restorative Justice
to Saroeum Phoung and decades of courage & dedication
to the women of the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk, for rallying so promptly and beautifully to allow this first new step
to brilliantly clear and supportive friends on the west coast,
to enduring, stalwart friends who listen and show up and listen and show up
to mothers who keep all sorts of important documents tucked away
to all mothers who stand up and speak up,
to Rick Sobey and Jim Campinini at the Lowell Sun
to the thousands of viewers, sharers and petition signers
to the next round of those who found me, to concur and thank me for speaking so loudly
to everyone who has bravely endured silencing or institutional abuse alone
to the brilliant, clear, enlightened alumni advisor for hours & hours of insightful bolstering and guidance
to west coast alumni travelers and defenders of justice
to agitators and circulators and vocal old friends of all kinds
to so many alumni – and even friends of alumni – for lending voice and leverage
to Abby Yanow for generous, skillful advising
to coordinators of the Somerville, MA Green Room for support above and beyond
to deeply loyal, supportive, loving west coast friends
to Marci Hamilton, Child USA, Mass Kids, S.E.S.A.M.E, Jane Doe, Shael Norris, Safe Bae, Massachusetts & New Hampshire legislators, progressive media and numerous professors, advocates and advisors around the country
to Justine Finn of the Relation-Shift Project at Harvard Innovation Lab
to the continuous waves of those who find me to concur/confirm and thank me
to all the donors of the GoFundMe page
to the synchronicity of encountering profound generosity while in pursuit of justice,
to the organizers of All Survivors Day and the courage to not waver in the face of brute force
to all weavers of resources and gifts in so many forms, to allow me to simply keep going
to the woman with shaky hands who registered me at Lawrence Academy Open House
to Jamie Baker, for profound humanity, integrity and fortitude amidst the surrounding confusion & fear
to every Groton, Massachusetts business that willingly, eagerly displayed The Amends Project information so prominently
to every moment of shift in the hearts of Lawrence Academy faculty, staff, donors and trustees – away from lockdown/fear – toward the warm hopefulness of possibility
to every moment of aligned courage, in those unseen to me
to the promise of The Justice CORPS, and a time when institutional cover-up of child abuse is no longer
to the latent goodness in Steve Hahn
to the latent goodness in Dan Scheibe
to the latent goodness in Paul Lannon
to the latent goodness in Bruce MacNeil
to the willingness of every strong and humane adult around this issue, to stand and speak and act,
Happily Holiday ~
Week 27: Three Reasons
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act.” – The Dalai Lama
Week 26: Anniversaries, Rights & Intersectionality
Today, November 9, 2018, marks a full 6 months of public work in The Amends Project. In honor of my 1/2 year of unpaid efforts for justice and positive change at Independent Schools, I gave myself a giftt by exercising and defending my rights.
I filed a police report for Bullying by Lawrence Academy.
Really? Bullying, you say? Yes. It’s not just an accurate categorical way to refer to the school’s handling of me since coming forward in 2016. Turns out, there are legal protections against such behavior. See: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXII/Chapter71/Section37O
How have they bullied? Violating a legally binding confidentiality agreement; spreading ugly rumors about my family on campus this year; submitting defaming comments to the press (and then refusing to speak to me directly); threatening arrest for trespass when I am in violation of no laws, or even requests for limits on behavior.
Ok. Deep breath. Moment of silence for the sadness of prolonged institutional abuse, when a student is only asking that adults do the right thing.
Remember, if a former student approaches school officials outside the legal system to find a more constructive path toward resolution, this does not mean school officials are then (or ever) above the law.
In other anniversaries, it has now been well over Two Years since headmaster Dan Scheibe “Asked Sex Misconduct Victims to Come Forward”. Why did he do that?
… so that he could demonstrate his “ongoing, generational care”, to honor All Survivors of abuse?
The school learns of the intention to gather for an International Day of Recognition for Survivors of Abuse. They are aware of numerous accounts of abuse under their care and proclaim to strive for the best possible response. How do they respond? Make a space for young people they have called “community members” and stand in solidarity with them? Commit to reforms that will keep kids safer over time? No.
Extra police are called in to patrol all entrances. Many police. Young people within the school, minor students, are enlisted to serve in this effort. They are taught to respond with fear and alarm to achieve this internal goal of preventing their presence.
Right. This is an institute for higher learning. These are kids under their care. Does anyone else see an ethical violation, here? Staff are paid to carry out orders. Parents pay the school to carry out the of care and education of their kids. Is this right or fair?
Most notably, a young female, African American student was asked to walk alone and follow one adult advocate across campus to tell her to leave. A wall of police and staff are then sent to approach this former student with the threat of arrest.
Did school leaders get parent permission before enlisting a minor student to their effort? If a parent sends a child to a school that boasts “diversity and inclusivity”, what can they expect? Will the the same things be asked of their child as of other children attending? . . . Something more?
If the school has an agenda to discredit an individual with a message they deem threatening, do they also have liberty to put young people on the front lines of their war? Might their choice to have a female, African American student acting alone on their mission be an exploitation for personal gain? What do you see?
Which brings us back to All Survivors Day. The recognition is meant for ALL – just as Lawrence Academy’s motto is “The light shines for all.”. It must be said that the issue of child sexual abuse disproportionately affects people of minority racial groups to a far greater extent. This issue also impacts those of minority sexual orientations and gender identities far more frequently than it does their mainstream counterparts.
Is there something larger at play?
Child sexual abuse is also perpetrated by both males and females against males and females. Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys under the age of 18 are impacted by sexual abuse. So, gender lines are interwoven here. Remembering that the spread across racial and socio-economic lines is not evenly distributed, how can we address the overarching issue?
Are there truly different standards for family of well-paid staff or donors than there are for minority students? Would a minority student face a higher penalty for violations? Would a minority student inversely find less protections when abused? Who sets the standards and who holds and enforces them?
(Please visit again, Justice CORPS Initiative 10.18.18)
How do we define abuse of power?
Perhaps the answer lies in the balance of power with responsibility. When power is granted and responsibility not held to account, we can expect an unhealthy tip. We know that oppression is a web and we may not always see the weaver. We can pick up a thread and examine it. We can pay attention when the movement of one thread reverberates in another.
Today, I ask every one of us to focus in and out on what is happening at Lawrence Academy through this lens. See the larger web, notice and recognize the individual threads. Look carefully at what you are holding. Consider that you can always lay down a thread that was handed to you, or one that does not ring true in your conscience.
What if . . . Lawrence Academy had instead sectioned off an area of campus for those who are moved to honor survivors? What opportunity was lost here, to make a show of support on an important, worldwide issue? Where was that demonstration of care? . . . Did they not speak of how challenges are turned into opportunities on campus? What if the words they spoke to prospective families actually held true in their actions?
What do their actions say about their quality of support for survivors?
I assert that the First Core Tenet of The Amends Project has been violated, and calls for repair. 1. No further exploitation will be allowed on the way toward resolution.
I made my police report this morning. What else might be done to restore balance?
Go ahead and check in:
Dan Scheibe email@example.com (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 25: The Amends Project is designed to work a bit like an immune system. Consider the root of the word “Amend” is to mend. Something is broken, and needs tending to repair and restore to proper functioning.
So, what is broken? Where is the root of the disease? In practical terms, we see it here in Lawrence Academy’s reporting protocols:
“Once a report is received from Ethics Point, the school determines whether to investigate the matter internally or whether an external entity (such as law enforcement or an outside consultant) should be involved. In addition, the school determines whether the matter must be reported to government or law enforcement agencies consistent with the school’s policies and legal obligations. We expect Ethics Point to improve significantly our capabilities to identify and respond effectively to concerns raised by our community members. ” https://www.lacademy.edu/page.cfm?p=1812
This is the very apex point where power and responsibility tip the scales to un-health. Too much power without consistently taking responsibility has created an imbalance. The current communication system for Lawrence Academy directs all sensitive information to school officials. They decide whether anything “should” be reported to outsiders. Ah, ha.
So, if the sensitive information involves a family member of one of the “deciders”, they have the right to determine whether others will be alerted or not. If a star athlete, who brings great esteem to the school is a perpetrator, again the decision on whether to act rests on internal “deciders”. Inversely, if a minority student is exploited or abused, the school determines whether this offense is severe enough for reporting.
We’ll have more on the intersection of child abuse, gender, race and class in an upcoming post. For now, let’s take a moment to consider what it means to be a collective, human immune system. When a pathogen is identified, antibodies such as Helper T Cells move in to direct immune response to perform the necessary tasks. Resistance to or weakened immune function allows for continued disease.
What is necessary here? Oversight. Transparency. Outside Accountability Systems. How do we get there?
We choose. We choose whether to direct energies toward suppressing immune function, ignoring disease and allowing it to spread, or being an agent of help in preventing disease. Every one of us makes this choice…
Which brings me to The Sanghavi Group.
To Kate Uphatham & Elizabeth Sanghavi of the Sanghavi Law Firm,
I trust you are regular visitors to The Amends Project page, so I figured it was time now to address you directly. Hello.
I understand you have been hired by Lawrence Academy to investigate only incidents related to former employee Peter Regis. I am well aware that his stay on campus ended abruptly in December 2001, when I was on my way to speak about his and Steve Hahn’s actions, and could not be reached by phone.
I am disappointed to learn that handling by school leaders is not under investigation.
I also feel discouraged to know that the findings of your report will not be shared in true and full form with parents, alumni, or anyone outside the school. I received message that the decision about what details to release rests solely within the hands of school officials.
For these and other reasons, I refuse to participate in this internal investigation, falsely referred to as an “independent investigation.”
I do want to approach you, however, to ask you consider an entirely new approach to your line of work…
I understand you see things. I imagine you grasp the scope of this problem in a way that few truly do. Therefore, I invite you to make a brave and inspired move. I invite you to consider the impact you will leave on your world by your life’s efforts. I don’t know your age, but this kind of life review is always a worthwhile exercise. What will be Your impacts? After years of seeing and secretly conveying facts about child abuse back to schools – I ask you to shift your focus now to finally doing something about it.
I like to think this idea brings a sense of immediate relief, and a breath of fresh air as Hope. We all are responsible for what we contribute to the world through our livelihoods. You are in a unique position now to help turn this tide.
If you haven’t already viewed the most recent draft of Justice CORPS Initiative 10.18.18, I encourage you to do so now.
I don’t know what your compensation agreement is with Lawrence Academy (though, I trust you have already out-earned my absentee settlement of 18% the attorney’s demand). So, you’ll have to carefully consider the timing of your next steps.
Given what you see, and the conscience you must have within you, I invite you to submit either a letter of endorsement or statement of support to Lawrence Academy officials. You may find them here: Letter of Endorsement Template & statement of support template. Of course, there are many ways to make a statement by your actions, here.
My goal is to run a pilot of the program simultaneously at two schools for the 2019-2020 year. I am prepared and willing; Dan and Bruce have detailed agreements in their email. I am sure this is the best way to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the model.
Again, DO NOT contact me by email or phone. You can send your statements directly to:
Dan Scheibe email@example.com (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s never too late to make a change. A life change, a career change, a change for the true betterment of young people and families.
Here’s to an impact you can be proud of.
Week 24: Open House & All Survivors Day ~ Welcome to The Amends Project!
Maybe you are a prospective family, or maybe you are a local resident. However you come to be aware of this movement, I welcome you.
What is this about? Well, this poem is a great place to start…
“Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity.
It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice,
the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer,
the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice.
It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free…”.
-Common Prayer: A Liturgy of Ordinary Radicals
So, what is the issue?
Like the card says, Lawrence Academy has a cover-up problem. Covering up what? Child abuse. By whom? Faculty, staff, students, family members of school officials and leaders…
I know, it’s painful to face.
And yet – if we are to grow, any of us, we must face our weaknesses as bravely as we do our strengths. We are only as strong as our weakest moments.
I read The Story, and it’s about things that happened in the 1990’s – isn’t this a historical or past-tense issue?
Unfortunately, no. It would be reassuring if it were. Since this effort went public in May 2018, many have contacted the Project facilitator with similar stories of silencing, pressure to not exercise one’s rights, bullying, secret compensation deals and so on. These accounts continue well into this decade, and up to 2017. A painful pattern has emerged that, sadly, has stood the test of time. That’s why I’m here. I want to help.
Who are you? Who is behind this?
Hello. My name is Vanessa Osage. I am a graduate of Lawrence Academy, class of ’96. I am a sexuality educator, consultant and professional coach. I also am Founder/Executive Director of a nonprofit working on prevention and positive youth development. You may learn more about me here: www.loveandtruthrising.org
Yes, I traveled all the way from Seattle to be on campus today, to honor All Survivors of abuse.
This Project is also supported by a range of alumni, advocates, advisors and other concerned citizens. Though, I alone take responsibility for its message and content. Suffice to say, all great things only happen in collaboration and with cooperation from many.
So, is this a lawsuit between you and the school?
No, I did retain an attorney in late 2016 – but soon realized the approach of “scaring the school into settling” was not a fit for me. The attorney sent a demand letter for $2,000,000.00 to Lawrence Academy in mid-2017. Soon after, I released him because the representation was not true or in line with my goals or values. I was most concerned about what would happen following my case; that the school would likely become more secretive and inclined to intimidate kids into silence.
So, I decided to forge a new way to address this issue, outside of court . . .
What are you trying to achieve?
I am working to implement a model for reform that addresses the conflict of interest between school leaders to preserve a reputation, and youth/families to keep young people safe. I have created a model (again, with collaboration from professionals) for transparency and accountability in holding a high standard of response when abuse happens on campus.
This model also has a ranking system, that would allow parents to review a school’s track record in honorably addressing abuses, and placing the needs of students first. I invite you to view the full 6-page proposal here: Justice CORPS Initiative 10.18.18
What can I do to further this cause?!
You can call and/or email headmaster Dan Scheibe, and Trustee Bruce MacNeil and encourage them to accept participation in the Justice CORPS. Both have copies of agreements ready and waiting in their inboxes. I have asked for acceptance by Monday November 5, 2018. It has been two years of actively pursuing justice, and 25 years of asking the school to do the right thing.
You could be part of bringing this effort all the way home. Imagine all the lives you could help save…
Dan Scheibe email@example.com (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil firstname.lastname@example.org
If you were present on campus for Open House today (with a red folder), you may remember headmaster Dan Scheibe talking about how relationships are what set Lawrence Academy apart from other schools. You might recall his story about an alumna he encountered 30 years later – and how this ongoing care is “a generational thing”. Is this true? (See insights from the press & this context)
Threatening to arrest a former student for trespassing, after she registers and calmly attends Open House programming may suggest otherwise. You can decide. How would you want your former student to be handled?
Remember – it’s not about making someone “wrong” while another is “right”. It is about recognizing a problem, and finding the willingness to bravely face it. It is about directing energy away from preventing the spread of knowledge toward the actions that seek to address and resolve it.
It is Time. All families deserve the reassurance of knowing that – if anything happened to their child on campus – the needs of the child would absolutely come first.
If this very school were to take the leap to move forward, to embrace responsibility for the safety of their kids and truly demonstrate that quality of care over time… might it then be a great fit for your family? Would you possibly trust them more?
Let them know.
Dan Scheibe email@example.com (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil firstname.lastname@example.org
an international day to recognize survivors of sexual abuse.
An international day to recognize survivors of sexual abuse, bring their stories into the light, raise awareness of the widespread nature of the issue and organize for change in the culture that allows sexual abuse to continue.
Want to be part of an action to address these issues?!
Email: email@example.com for details.
Week 22: Board of Trustees President Bruce MacNeil declined participation in The Justice CORPS for a second time over the weekend; reasons were not given. Bruce MacNeil and headmaster Dan Scheibe have been invited to a remote video conference to discuss the Initiative further. Vanessa Osage awaits response.
Week 21: After much collaboration, and many revisions, the latest proposal for Justice CORPS Initiative 10.18.18 is submitted to Lawrence Academy school officials. The request is for written acceptance by November 5, 2018.
Also, the first professional Advisor has officially joined The Amends Project! Welcome Justine Finn!
See: http://www.relationshiftproject.com for more on Justine’s work.
Week 19: How to Respond Letter.10.4.18 We officially invite school leaders to respond.
Week 18: “Does character matter?”
– Rachel Mitchell, Arizona Sex Crimes Prosecutor, during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings on September 27, 2018.
This week, we look at the concept of Authority and where we see evidence of its presence or absence in key players of The Amends Project.
We, as Organized Alumni, have now tallied 9 accounts of predatory sexual misconduct on minors by former Lawrence Academy employee, Peter Regis. Is there any doubt that this happened? Documented reports were made in 1994. Though, notably, no police report was ever made. Headmaster Steven L Hahn knew. Trustee Bruce MacNeil knew [Bruce MacNeil is still acting president of the Board of Trustees]. It’s what happened next – response – that matters…
Lawrence Academy is now facing new lawsuits as a result of public awareness of these incidents. Their response? Hire a firm to create an internal report (falsely referred to as an “independent investigation”) – the fate and contents of which are entirely up to the school itself. This has been confirmed by phone call and in writing.
When a school has knowingly aided and abetted a criminal, dismissed a student by revoking her financial aid following her insistence that right action be done, and kept this man employed for 7 years despite years of her pleading… is this an entity which has earned the title of Authority?
- We cannot demand the benefits of being an Authority figure without also walking the talk of acting with personal Authority: knowing what you believe and acting accordingly.
A clear sign of authority is doing the right thing even when no one is looking or telling you to do so. We know a child has grown into personal authority when he can be trusted to make the wise and healthy choice, even when a parent is no longer watching over.
Has Lawrence Academy achieved this level of Authority? We believe not. Upon asking sex misconduct victims to come forward, they “disagree” over any wrongdoing, offer 1 – 3% of attorney’s settlement with silence on terms, and claim “sadly, we cannot change the events of the past”. To disregard the most vocal student, violate confidentiality agreements, and attempt to defame her character to the press as she asks for change… this is a sign of one who has not matured to the point of Authority.
To brush this first student aside with “disagreements”, discrediting and defamation – and then say to all: “Give us your personal details! We are looking into it!” — this is not a higher response. Those who mistreat former students have not earned the right to have that information.
To quote Cory Booker, US Senator for New Jersey, during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings on September 27, 2018, “How we deal with survivors who come forward right now is unacceptable.”
- We cannot demand the benefits of being an Authority figure without also walking the talk of acting with personal Authority: knowing what you believe and acting accordingly.
Yes, Sanghavi Group is “looking into” Peter Regis. We have confirmed this is the extent of their searching, in writing by email. Who is Looking Into Lawrence Academy? That’s where we come in.
Headmaster R Daniel Scheibe recently wrote: “After we have gathered reports in any of the ways described immediately above [related to Peter Regis], the school, in consultation with the Board of Trustees, will decide how best to respond.” But the question remains — has the school earned the right or authority to be the one to decide?
St. Paul’s School of New Hampshire has been dealt a landmark decision by Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald, that an overseer reports all incidents to the state for five years. He, too, understands that doling out fines and punishments does not ensure a change in behavior by the institution. He, too, sees that institutions which have condoned and covered up abuse now need true, independent oversight.
Here is what we, as Organized Alumni, are asking of Lawrence Academy officials, past and present:
- That all confidentiality clauses, gag-orders and silencing agreements are now lifted immediately and indefinitely, without recourse.
- That Steven L Hahn, R Daniel Scheibe, Bruce MacNeil and Paul Lannon Admit the facts, Apologize for their behavior and Amend by releasing fair & adjusted settlement to the student immediately.
- That Lawrence Academy now agrees to participate in The Justice CORPS, to walk their talk, by accepting oversight and transparency for the well-being of students.
Week 17: Why do this outside the legal system? Because we can do a better job of ensuring that things truly change. Why not just drag everyone to court? Because the chance of re-offending (by covering up crimes against children) remains too high. How do we do better? Please enjoy this short video on Restorative Justice:
Why didn’t this work for Lawrence Academy and the student? Well, you can enjoy the long-view story of how the past two years have played out Here. The simple answer is – school leaders attempted to sabotage the process – with a surprise letter saying the Restorative Justice Circle on February 28, 2018 had been called off. After the student had travelled all the way across the country! Also, headmaster Steven L Hahn chose to be unavailable for the second part of the day, when repairs would be discussed.
Restorative Justice doesn’t work when key players make themselves unavailable.
Beyond this, Lawrence Academy attorney Paul Lannon worked with headmaster Dan Scheibe to craft a succinct response to the issue of wrongdoing by the school: “We disagree” is all they all say. That’s not how Restorative Justice works either.
This week, the student offers a necessary reframe on the “disagreement” that has plagued this situation for decades. Here we go:
- The student believes it is wrong to knowingly employ a child molester at a place where new kids are going to come in every year and not know. School leaders believed it was ok to minimize the severity and potential risk of an abuser on campus, following two matching reports of 2nd degree child molestation; enough to give the man a home among students, a job, and health insurance for life.
- The student believes that action in the form of Acknowledgement of Wrongs, Apology, and Amends is required. Lawrence Academy officials believe “hearing former students out” is enough.
- The student believes that repairs need to reflect harm done by the school. Lawrence Academy believes an amount equivalent only to degree of abuse by the former employee is plenty (1 – 3% of attorney demands – but only if she’s quiet about their offer). They believe there is no moral obligation to account for damages by their choices and behavior.
- The student believes a cover-up problem continues to this day, as there has been no ownership of responsibility, and recent documents of similar behavior have also surfaced. She believes crucial oversight is in order, as outlined in the Justice CORPS proposal. Lawrence Academy officials want everyone to believe everything is absolutely fine and better now; they’ve got it. They’re “looking into it”.
- The student believes the person who watched her plead for right action for the wellbeing of other students for 7 years is the most culpable. He is the party who aided and abetted, and also validated, a predator. Steve Hahn believes current headmaster and attorney should be the only ones to handle the situation now.
What do you think? Let them know how you feel!
Steven L Hahn (603) 724-3290
R Daniel Scheibe (978) 448-1526
Attorney Paul Lannon (617) 573-5842
. . . Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald revealed the findings during an afternoon news conference at his office in Concord.
“We could have charged the school,” MacDonald said.
Instead, MacDonald said, he has signed an agreement with St. Paul’s School to appoint an overseer to work at the school for five years.
“Rather we pursued a course of comprehensive reform,” MacDonald said. Criminal charges would, at most, have resulted in misdemeanor convictions and fines, he said.
The overseer will report to the New Hampshire Department of Justice and will enforce the agreement between St. Paul’s School and the attorney general. Public reports will be required on a biannual basis.
The agreement requires St. Paul’s School to report alleged abuse of students to the overseer and the New Hampshire Department of Justice before launching an internal investigation, MacDonald said.
Remember, The Amends Project proposes an Oversight Committee called the Justice CORPS: https://loveandtruthrising.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/justice-corps-proposal-7-22-18.pdf Lawrence Academy officials have, so far, declined consideration or participation.
Hats off to St. Paul’s and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald for taking a higher road. We, at The Amends Project, are also asking Lawrence Academy of Groton, MA to take a similar step and live out accountability at once.
- All School officials need to stop referring to the work of Sanghavi Group as “an independent investigation”. Former students have confirmed by phone that all information discovered is intended to stay within the school. This is an expensive internal report – and it needs to stop immediately. Employees of Sanghavi Group have even begun approaching alumni – unsolicited – after following their social media posts, and pressuring them into sharing sensitive details – without answering direct questions in advance.
- Attorney Paul Lannon needs to confirm whether allegations of sexual assault by a family member of the current headmaster – within the past decade – are true. Most importantly, if students and families were pressured into not pressing charges, and given off-the-record compensation, this needs to be confirmed immediately as well.
- All families deserve to know whether there have been recent allegations of sexual misconduct at Lawrence Academy – and if the school has handled these in accordance with legal mandates. Let’s ask that all gag orders, confidentiality agreements and clauses now be lifted. Concerned citizens may email firstname.lastname@example.org for an Action Plan with contacts and a list of key questions. We all deserve to know the Truth.
Week 15: Concerned citizens may or may not know, The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) partnered in 2016 to create clear recommendations (released August 2017) for addressing staff sexual misconduct in schools. What do they say?
“In other cases, however, misguided concern about community disruption, the reputation of the school, or personal loyalties — among other considerations — took precedence over caring for abuse victims, protecting students, and preventing future abuse.
“Several schools have compounded survivors’ injuries . . . It is the clear responsibility of each school to act unfailingly on its commitment to provide a safe learning environment for students and, if an incident of abuse occurs, to help victims and survivors of educator sexual misconduct at the school. We must not confuse institutional integrity with institutional reputation.
- “Students must understand how to report any issues that they experience or that they suspect are happening to other students, both inside and outside the school community. They should also understand that retaliation against anyone who reports suspected abuse will not be tolerated.
The Imperative of Leadership
“The truest measure of institutional strength is the integrity with which a school lives out its mission and values. In preventing and responding to educator sexual misconduct, a school may find its integrity put to the test. When abuse is reported, any school’s mission would support responding to reporters of abuse with compassion, diligence, and justice. And many schools’ missions and mottos prescribe truth and honesty, which can be manifested by communicating openly with board members, parents, students, and other constituencies.
“Open, transparent approaches that reflect care, acknowledge fault, offer apology, share Draft Recommendations for Addressing Educator Sexual Misconduct in Independent Schools information, and take remedial action are becoming more commonplace. Schools that honestly and openly confront abuse are the standard-bearers for the independent school community.”
Admit. Apologize. Amend.
We Outraged Alumni are saying it. The larger governing boards of Independent Schools & Boarding Schools across the nation are saying it.
How is Lawrence Academy not hearing it? What or Who is standing in the way? Ask!
Week 14: Rosh Hashanah
Time to pause and reflect. It has been nearly two years since Lawrence Academy Asked Sex Misconduct Victims to Come Forward. What have we achieved? What have we learned?
In some parts of the world, and for those who live a Jewish life, this weekend marks the end and renewal of the year with Rosh Hashanah. The start of the High Holy Days. A time of endings, and by necessity – new beginnings.
Some sources say that Rosh Hashanah is about judgement, a higher source caring enough to know and insist on what is right. There is reference to love, potential, inner renewal and divine atonement…
For those connected to The Amends Project, it is a great time to ask – What will be our story? Running and hiding from past wrongdoings or courageously facing mistakes that have harmed many?
Can’t we all feel the potential love and freedom that comes from saying, “I made a poor decision. I see how it affected and affects so many of you.”? Let’s refresh and set a new standard that allows for those in ‘leadership’ to show the strength of admission of guilt. Only then can we find divine atonement.
From chabad.org . . . “The blowing of the ram’s horn represents the trumpet at a king’s coronation. Its plaintive cry is a call to repentance.
Teshuvah (“Return”; Repentance): (lit. “return”); repentance, return to a Jew’s true essence
We can’t tell you how to feel regret or resolve; it’s just something that happens inside. But we can give you a few tips on how to clean up the mess a mess-up leaves in its trail.”
A Blessing – that all may move courageously toward the graces of Divine Atonement.
Week 13: Start of school! With so many trying to make sense of mixed messages, confusion over words vs. actions, and other illusions, we have brought yet another discrepancy to light.
Sent anonymously by mail and shared with The Amends Project in mid-2018.
An excerpt from the public statement sent by Dan Scheibe on May 18, 2018:
Who is confused? For all the young people who may be wrestling with making sense of the world they are presented, and the world they see by reality and action among them… Know that we are here and we are fighting for You.
End of Week 12: About that “Independent Investigation” . . .
Some Lawrence Academy alumni are receiving letters with news of an “independent” investigation into sexual abuse at the school. Reassuring? Let’s see…
“But critics say that the firms, often described by administrators as “independent,” can be too close to the schools they are investigating. Ultimately, it is the schools that pay their bills, and decide what information will be released.” . . .
[From Lawrence Academy’s very own, Paul Lannon] “It’s important for institutions to be careful about the word ‘independent’ and be transparent about what this means,” said Paul G. Lannon Jr., a partner at Holland & Knight. “They are paying for these services, it’s not like these are volunteers coming in.”
[Paul sat in on the Restorative Justice Circle with former student Vanessa Osage, ’96 on March 1, 2018 – where no conclusion of compensation was made – and former headmaster Steve Hahn left for that portion of the day]
“But the reports serve a public relations function as well. At schools that haven’t seemed proactive and transparent, “school reputation and financial well-being” have “experienced collateral damage,” warned a recent draft of guidelines on how schools should respond to allegations of staff sexual abuse from the National Association of Independent Schools and The Association of Boarding Schools.
“At the outset, schools generally outline parameters for the firms they hire. Some ask investigators to focus on a specific span of time, or on adult misconduct, as opposed to student-on-student sexual violence. They will decide whether the inquiry will culminate in a written report, or some kind of oral presentation. A budget is discussed. Some reports name several perpetrators and the administrators who protected them, while others present almost no information about what happened.
“Some pledge ahead of time to release their findings, while others wait to see what is uncovered before they decide what they will make public.” . . .
“For each investigation, a team of up to half a dozen people can spend months conducting interviews, digging into records and chasing leads. Inquiries frequently cost schools hundreds of thousands of dollars, lawyers and school officials say, and at least one school spent $2 million on its comprehensive report.”
Wait… where have we seen that number before?
Alumni have also spoken recently of “Fiduciary Responsibility”. Lawrence Academy counts hundreds (thousands?) of donors to the school from Trustees to Parents to Alumni and more. See The Annual Giving Report of 2015-2016.
Given the choice, would these donors rather have their funds directed to a PR stint with uncertain outcomes – while the school denies any responsibility for wrongdoing – or allocated to a student who worked for decades to insist that school leaders protect future children even as she recovered from her own wounding?
What would the donor priorities be?
If you are a benefactor of Lawrence Academy, you may cast your vote!
Lawrence Academy main phone (978) 448-6535
Let them know how you want that money spent. If you want to invest in establishing new safeguards for students right now, you can give directly to this page:
Let school leaders know we see what is happening – with our kids, with the money, with the use of language and with priorities. We are an informed public.
Week 12: New this week!
The second event from The Power of Honest Conversations Series happens this week!
To reserve a spot, email: email@example.com to answer a few questions and receive an overview of expectations and an itinerary for the evening.
The goal is to identify interested community members to create a local Task Force to implement the Justice CORPS initiative at New England boarding schools.
True, Lawrence Academy may not be strong enough yet to take responsibility and commit to positive change. So, the plan is to approach the more ethically robust institutions around the region to find first willing participants in the pilot program.
With this phase underway, the student will continue to insist on accountability and growth from Lawrence Academy, to bring relief to the many who have suffered in this way under their care.
The event starts promptly at 5:30 pm on Friday August 31, in Somerville, MA. Press passes are available to a limit of 3 attendees, with advance approval. Please direct all questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 11: What Will We Preserve? What is Our Story?
Lawrence Academy Trustee Bruce MacNeil recently surfaced as a voice in the movement toward justice and reconciliation of decades of abuse at New England boarding schools… But, what does he represent?
From the pages of Lawrence Academy in Groton:
Faces Lifted in MacNeil Lounge
Posted 04/03/2013 08:23AM
MacNeil Lounge just plain feels better this year—that’s what happens when somebody pays very close attention to you. And when you feel good, it rubs off on those who come to visit you.
The loving touch came from the duo that tends to the keeping of Lawrence Academy’s history, volunteers Paul Husted ’64 and Dick Jeffers.
They recently completed the extensive repair and restoration of a historic portrait that has not seen the light of day for many years, and the need to hang this “new” addition prompted them to rethink the display of portraits on the walls of the MacNeil Lounge. The refreshed arrangement is attractive, welcoming, and informative.
Malcolm and Helen MacNeil have taken their proper place over the mantle, the room having been named for them when they furnished it in 1949. Malcolm also served on the Board of Trustees (1948–1965), as did his son Norman (1960–1983), as does his son, current president Bruce MacNeil (1984–).
The MacNeils gaze out over a collection of portraits of benefactors, trustees, and long-tenured heads of school spaced tastefully between the tall windows along the walls. http://www.lacademy.edu/cf_news/view.cfm?newsid=409
That’s a lot of pressure. Could that kind of lineage influence your decision-making process in hard moments? In 1994, Lawrence Academy officials decided to keep a documented child molester employed and living on campus, after a sophomore student confronted him about his behavior. Two matching accounts were recorded. When this student asked repeatedly what would be done about this discovery by leaders, her financial aid was revoked and she was prevented from returning. Bruce MacNeil was serving as Board President at the time.
Now, Bruce MacNeil continues to refer to all of this as a “disagreement”. Confusing, yes?
Where is the good-feeling care and attention here? . . . Who’s feeling the love?
In 2001, the same student – after 7 years of pleading with leaders to do the right thing – returned to the school to speak the Truth and in effect, finally removed the perpetrator from campus. His removal was classified as “release on permanent, long-term disability”. Right, health insurance for perpetuity. The sudden resignation by headmaster Steve Hahn the following year, in 2002, was delivered in news of only praise and honor. He still shows up at wine socials for school leaders.
What is the story of Lawrence Academy, in regards to learning from its mistakes? As an institution for higher learning, how are leaders modeling the mindset needed to learn and grow in the first place?
On a larger scale, what will this moment now, in 2018, tell about the enduring quality of an institution that spans two centuries?
As for Bruce MacNeil, what would make it safe for someone to admit their mistakes and wrongdoing? Generally, the secure person is more equipped to demonstrate the character and grace to say, “That was wrong. I am so sorry. How can we make this right?”. As hundreds of men in authority are called to account around the region, Bruce MacNeil, current headmaster Dan Scheibe, and former headmaster Steve Hahn continue to evade all forms of communication with the student. These men either remain silent and unavailable, or offer discrediting commentary to the press about the student and her efforts. Most pointedly and sharply, this is done by Bruce MacNeil, who has never met the student – but likely knows her part in this long story better than any other…
If your grandfather and your father were behind-the-scenes leaders of a big institution – and horrible news of abuse surfaced during your tenure, would you tremble at owning up to the consequences? Could that kind of inheritance inspire someone to defame the voice of one who points out a wrongdoing and holds you to account?
The greater the test, the stronger the testimony. The test now is for Lawrence Academy leaders – past and present – to admit to a cover-up at the expense of former students. When we admit to the problem of cover-up behavior (which has proven relevant by very similar accounts in 2016), only then we can consider a resolution. It is the moment of admission that turns the tide and makes space for a new precedent to be set, one that can tell a higher story about the 200-year-old school.
Nearly two years ago, Headmaster Dan Sheibe Asked Sex Misconduct Victims to Come Forward. http://www.lowellsun.com/breakingnews/ci_30490411/lawrence-academy-asks-sex-misconduct-victims-come-forward.
Two Years of active hiding and denying. Bruce MacNeil has made his email contact available, for any student, parent or alumni to bring their concerns.
Let’s encourage him, in a way that is safe, to take the courageous step to inspire a true transformation at the place where his patrilineal heritage has brought him Now.
“We enacted a cover-up. We did this at the expense of students. We are sorry.”
President of the Board of Trustees Bruce MacNeil (email@example.com)
End of Week 10: First, in solidarity with all of those who have been fighting for justice and the truth to be known in Pennsylvania Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cover-ups for so long, we share this from the New York Times, on August 14, 2018 (3 days ago) :
The relevant echoes? “They wanted to cover up the cover-up,” he said.
Which brings us to The Amends Project.
Oh, if you follow print media, and find yourself feeling confused about the word “unreasonable” lately (what does get exchanged between the student and school leaders?), you might find clarity Here.
Now . . . Onward!
The Power of Honest Conversations
Well, Lawrence Academy officials were strangely silent following the invitation to a Public Response Event on Thursday in Somerville, MA. (Headmaster Dan Scheibe was even reported by school receptionist to be “in and out of the office”, “in a meeting” and “on vacation” – all in the same day!)
Still, the student and supporters went on without them…
In response to interest generated by the event, The Amends Project www.theamendsproject.com is hosting a follow-up gathering with a new theme. Good things come from honest conversations. So, Facilitators are now inviting concerned families to have an open forum with alumni & associates from Lawrence Academy about these issues. Come learn about the Justice CORPS proposal and more.
All families deserve the reassurance that, if anything happened to their child at school, the needs and well-being of the child would absolutely come first.
What is the biggest issue here? The quality of response from school leaders when human rights violations are suffered by students under their care.
What is the purpose of these meetings, and the Amends Project overall? It is 3-fold: 1. to bring the truth to light. 2. to hold school leaders to account. 3. to enact lasting, positive change.
Friday August 31, 2018
5:30 – 7:30 pm
The Green Room
62 Bow Street, Prospect Hill
Somerville, MA 02143
Kindly RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your seat (limited to 15 / 25 with standing room)
This event is Free with confirmation in advance. For a press pass (available to reporters and bloggers in advance – limited to 3), email: email@example.com by Thursday August 30, 2018.
Craving some relevant information to help you in steering your kids towards healthy sexuality in the meantime? A recently published piece by Vanessa Osage, “Speaking Reverence, Speaking Truth” Enjoy!
Week 10: Public Response Event Tonight!
Thursday August 16, 2018
6 – 7 pm
62 Bow Street, Prospect Hill
Somerville, Massachusetts 02143
Open to the press, and the public, a chance to ask questions, share concerns and contribute to positive change. Seating is limited to 25. Arrive early to arrange for parking and to get a seat. Fifteen minutes of introductions, followed by questions. Overseen by a local facilitator. Look forward to seeing you there!
Burdensome choice is now Lawrence Academy’s
When I was 16, Lawrence Academy in Groton put me in a horrible position. Even more than failing to protect me from the child molester I had just confronted; even more than removing my sense of place and derailing my education, I was given the burdensome choice between allowing their decisions or honoring my conscience.
This is what honoring my conscience looks like: www.theamendsproject.com.
In 1994, Lawrence Academy decided to keep a documented child molester on campus after two students gave matching testimonies. In 2016, the school asked sex misconduct victims to step forward. Now, officials choose to “disagree” about any wrongdoing and are directing attention to a new investigation.
The choice to not settle with a former student, but instead hire private investigators to create an internal report to mitigate risk, is a clear message about the school’s priorities.
Any funds offered, (3.75 percent of the attorney’s demand), come from the coffers of a public-interest institution and do not affect the personal finances of the decision makers. By contrast, everything the student puts into seeking repair is at direct, personal expense.
It is time to resolve the persistent conflict of interest between Lawrence Academy to preserve a reputation — and of students and families for safety and protection. This is why I propose, and have created a model for, a Justice CORPS — the Committee to Oversee the Rights & Protections of Students.
My goal is to create a system that relieves my burden of addressing the wrongs done by an institution where adults within continually choose to do nothing. At 16, I made it my job to see that no further students would be harmed here in the same way. I need to hand over my burden now. I am ready for resolution.
Vanessa Osage, ’96
End of Week 8: What does Lawrence Academy say to accountability this week? No, thanks.
Today we have a lesson about words that start with the letter “D”.
First, a quick review:
Two Lawrence Academy students share accounts of a similar pattern of abuse by a school employee. One student later approaches the leader of the school to ask what will be done. The answer is, “If it happens again, he’ll have to go”. She approaches again soon after, urging that something be done. At the end of the year, the student learns there is no financial aid available for her return. Her sister, also a student, is financially supported to return and she is not. The following year, the child molester remains employed, living on campus (for another 7 years following), and the student who spoke up is not there.
Current administrators now refer to this as a “disagreement”. Let’s look more closely at language, shall we?
Webster’s Dictionary offers this: disagreement /ˌdɪsəˈgriːmənt/ noun, plural disagreements
Learner’s definition of DISAGREEMENT
1 a [noncount] : failure to agree
▪There’s been a lot of disagreement about/on/over how best to spend the money.
▪He has expressed disagreement [=he has said that he disagrees] with some aspects of the proposal.
b [count] : a difference of opinion : an argument caused by people having different opinions about something
▪We’ve had a number of serious disagreements [=disputes, arguments] over the years.
▪Several disagreements have yet to be resolved.
Now, let’s contrast this word, as it relates to the above paragraph, with the word “denial”.
Again, from Webster’s: denial /dɪˈnajəl/ noun, plural denials
Learner’s definition of DENIAL
1 [count] : a statement saying that something is not true or real : a statement in which someone denies something
▪She issued a flat/absolute/outright denial of the charges made against her.
▪The accusations have met with angry denials from school officials.
▪The city government has been heavily criticized for its denial of the seriousness of the situation.
▪his denial of responsibility
2 [noncount] psychology : a condition in which someone will not admit that something sad, painful, etc., is true or real
▪I think she’s still in a state of denial about her husband’s death. [=she still has not fully accepted that her husband is dead]
— often used in the phrase in denial
▪He’s in denial about his drinking problem. [=he will not admit that he drinks too much alcohol]
Which word more accurately describes the school’s response to what has happened?
Also this week, a new public statement is issued from Lawrence Academy about a new claim of child sexual abuse by Peter Regis. A police report is made and investigators are hired. Notably, a marked change in tone and approach is implemented.
Again, for a quick review… Following start of the public phase of the Amends Project, the school issued a statement on May 18, 2018 with these words:
“It is fair to say, however, that the school is not in full agreement with several claims that are made in the alumna’s account.”
This sentiment was echoed this week in a private response from headmaster Dan Scheibe to the student, regarding a proposal for a new accountability system as well as acknowledgement and resolution:
“…the board cannot accept your proposal as we still disagree with some of your conclusions.”
Ok. Take a moment here to pause and digest that . . . Now, let’s reference two other relevant “D” words. Again, from Webster’s:
Definition of discredit
1: to refuse to accept as true or accurate : disbelieve
- discredit a rumor
2: to cause disbelief in the accuracy or authority of
- a discredited theory
Definition of dismiss
1: to permit or cause to leave
- dismiss the visitors
- Class is dismissed.
2: to remove from position or service : discharge
- dismissed the thievish servant
3a : to reject serious consideration of
- dismissed the thought
How do these words relate to the response of the school to the student’s coming forward? To the first public statement? Efforts toward resolution?
Reference to the past also showed a striking contrast. From the May 18 statement regarding the Amends Project:
“Sadly, we cannot change the events or acts of the past.”
From the statement of July 26, regarding the surfacing of new, similar allegations:
“…we must learn as much as we can about what happened in our past so that we can face matters squarely today…”
Also from July 26: “The more information Lawrence Academy has, the more effective we can be in responding to alumni who may have experienced misconduct while here…”
How effective has the response been so far? (hint)
What is the school’s goal in gathering these facts? Once sufficiently achieved… then, what? If an institution hires investigators to compile an internal report, do they also get editing rights?
Most importantly – what is the lesson? What is the lesson and when will we know that school leaders have learned it?
Response. The root of Responsibility, the one thing that is always within our power. The place where we can make the greatest impact. Honest, humble, accountable, supportive, consistent, trustworthy Response.
The last “D” word is offered here for open-ended interpretation.
diversion (dĭ-vûrˈzhən, -shən, dī-)
n.The act or an instance of diverting or turning aside; deviation.
n.Something that distracts the mind and relaxes or entertains.
n.A maneuver that draws the attention of an opponent away from a planned point of action, especially as part of military strategy.
We can do so much better here. Isn’t it time? Wouldn’t it restore balance, trust, safety alignment of word/action, integrity, honor, respect and more?
From this week’s statement from Lawrence Academy:
“This sense of care is our fundamental mission, based in trust and responsibility.”
Let’s get there.
Week 8: The student invites Lawrence Academy to participate in a pilot program, The Justice CORPS – Council to Oversee the Rights & Protections of Students. This accountability system would provide a confidential communication tool for students to report human rights violations to a diverse group of adults outside of and non-affiliated with the institution. After being advised of their rights and options, students and families would have the benefit of advocacy and oversight, as well as a third party to aid in communications back to the school. Participating schools would then have a Justice CORPS ranking, available for public review and consideration by families.
The student awaits acceptance of her proposal, in addition to resolution terms, this week.
Reassured by the promise of a new safeguard for students’ rights? Sign Here!
So, what is Accountability? From Assad Schuitema’s Human Excellence Group, comes this excerpt:
“Practically accountability involves, among other things, the ability to own up to your mistakes, both to yourself and to others. Mistakes happen, that is a fact of life. There are however different ways in which we can respond to mistakes. The accountable person responds to his/her mistakes by acknowledging them and then doing all he/she can to rectify the mistake. This is why an accountable person is trustworthy with responsibilities. When they mess up, they will tell you and will do what they can to fix it.
“A person who is not accountable however will not be able to own up to his/her mistakes. Such a person will play the blame game, trying to offload responsibility onto someone else instead of carrying the burden oneself. Such a person of course cannot be trusted with responsibilities because when they make a mistake you can expect a cover up rather than efforts to fix it.
“But what are the benefits of owning up to your mistakes? I will list 3 of what I take to be the most important.
1. Solutions come quicker: The person who is in the best position to understand a problem is the one who caused it. . . . By not owning up to your mistakes there is the possibility that they can become serious problems. Also, if problems come to light and there are people playing the blame game this will also, naturally, impede the resolution of the issue. There can be no solution when individuals are trying to pin the problem on someone else.
2. You learn through your mistakes:
Your last mistake is your best teacher. . . . If you want to learn from your mistakes you have to own up and admit them. It is only once you have admitted your mistake that you will learn from it.
3. You will earn the respect of others:
As Bruce Lee says, every mistake is always forgivable, as long as you have the courage to admit it. People for the most part are forgiving when you make mistakes. They become harsh only when you try to cover them up.
Most often however people are not only forgiving when you own up to your errors, they actually develop a deep respect for you when you do. Owning up to your mistakes shows courage and accountability and these are things we instinctively respect in people. We cannot help but respect the person we think is courageous and accountable.
So, by being accountable to ourselves and others by owning up to our mistakes, we are helping to ensure that they are quickly fixed, that we learn from them, and that we earn respect in the process.”
Week 6: Pop Quiz!: Name the character from The Story who most closely matches the description in bold below.
There are three elements to most aiding and abetting charges against an individual. The first is that another person committed the crime. Second, the individual being charged had knowledge of the crime or the principals\’ intent. Third, the individual provided some form of assistance to the principal. An accessory in legal terms is typically defined as a person who assists in the commission of a crime committed by another or others. In most cases, a person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory has knowledge of the crime either before or after its occurrence. A person who is aware of a crime before it occurs, and who gives some form of aid to those committing the crime, is known in legal terms as an “accessory before the fact.” He or she may assist through advice, actions, or monetary support. A person who is unaware of the crime before it takes place, but who helps in the aftermath of the crime, is referred to as an “accessory after the fact.”
Punishments for accessories vary in different jurisdictions. Sometimes accessories have had lesser punishments than principals. Other times, accessories are considered to be principals. Common law traditionally considers an accessory just as guilty as the principal in a crime, and therefore subject to the same penalties.
Send your answers to: firstname.lastname@example.org
. . . If we normalize secrecy and control, it will surely continue. Acknowledging what happened honestly and making it right is a crucial step toward recovery for all. Accountability absolutely keeps kids safer. Remember to sign and share!
Dear New England Residents,
I write you today with a mix of relief, frustration and concern. My name is Vanessa Osage and I am the former student seeking amends from Lawrence Academy. First, I thank you for your attention to this story. As a sexuality educator, consultant/coach and leader of a mission-driven business, I care about this today for a number of reasons.
First, we must understand that sexual abuse and/or harassment do not happen in a vacuum. They are perpetrated by abusers, bystanders and enablers. When someone turns away or supports structures that allow abuse, these players are also accountable. In this story, I suggest, the key players are even more accountable than a man who was ill and acting out.
I have been asked by Lawrence Academy, on numerous occasions over the course of decades, to be a silent accomplice to these crimes. I will not. Not when they send me away, not when they attempt to control my message, not when they offer pocket change amends, but only if I am quiet about it.
I speak now, as I did then, because the bigger picture of these abuses matters. How every one of us responds to these issues matters. I have created a website where you may direct your energy into action: www.theamendsproject.com
We always have a voice. There is always a clear and nondestructive path to justice. I invite you to join me.
Love & Truth Rising
A Mission to Positively Transform Love, Sexuality & Human Connections
Working in the field of sexual health and positive social change for nearly a decade, and currently writing a book about sexual maturity in America. See website for more information.
Also, if you are an attorney, child advocate or policy-maker, and would like to talk about collaborating to create new “cover up crime” laws, please contact me at: email@example.com
Week 4: A powerful Editorial is issued in the Lowell Sun, bringing light to the reality of sending away a press reporter from covering graduation on Friday June 1: http://www.lowellsun.com/editorials/ci_31921585/lawrence-academy-private-boarding-school-groton-set-new
To quote Matthew Kelly, internationally acclaimed author & business consultant, “This involves owning up to who we are, who we have been… and how we have failed. This journey liberates us to be able to say, “I messed up”. This is a significant advance in any relationship. Because if we are unable to admit that we have messed up in the past, we are unlikely to be too good at admitting when we mess up today.”
How does this impact the students of today? The faculty who seek to make their living by teaching and guiding young people?
There is a way to cleanse this wound. Many, many are watching and waiting.
End of Week 3: After hundreds in the region were called on to attend graduation, simply wearing yellow to symbolize a new day of honesty & accountability, a Lowell Sun reporter was turned away from covering yesterday’s ceremony:
The effort it takes to block truth and uphold a lie is always greater that the effort it would have taken to admit, cleanse and resolve the truth of the situation in the first place.
Whom do we admire and trust more? One who says, “I did nothing wrong! They were wrong and, look, I’ve been so good in these other ways…” – or – “Geez, I really made a mistake there. I was scared (uncertain/fearful/etc) and wasn’t my best self. I apologize. What can we do to make this right?”
Great words deserve to be verified by great action. Can one sing their own praises, claiming traits of responsibility and trust and convince others simply by their words? To quote R. Buckminster Fuller: “Integrity is the essence of everything successful.”
Start of Week 3: Rick Sobey publishes a feature article in the Sunday Lowell Sun: http://www.lowellsun.com/breakingnews/ci_31904793/nightmare-without-end
This needs to end the way all nightmares end – we wake up!
A call to all in the greater Boston area to attend high school graduation on Friday, June 1 simply wearing yellow, to signify the new day, where all leaders are held accountable.
A simple, non-threatening gesture to say, “We see this, and we want it to end”. Coming out of denial is the first step in every 12-step Recovery Program. The concern is – if they won’t admit now to the ways they covered up these crimes in the past, the tendency to hide a wrongdoing could play out again, in some other form…
As the sun rises, all is revealed. In the light of awareness, there is nothing to hide and true recovery is possible. Sign above with a comment that says, “I will wear yellow!”. We can all truly contribute to this larger awakening.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same mind we used when we created them.”
The fundamental “disagreement” between the current administration and the student is clearly established: That the student asked for help, and received none; that someone from within the school then revoked only her financial aid (and not that of her sibling), preventing her return for the 1994-95 school year; that, in order to return, she would have to accept special restrictions.
That she remained in contact with Steve Hahn from 1997 – 2001, by letter and in person, urging him to take right action may or may not be disputed.
The root level mindset which informs, ‘Do whatever we can to preserve the image of the school at all costs, even to the student’s well-being or safety’, shows itself to be alive and well in the actions of last week.
The student calls on Headmaster Dan Scheibe to enact a fundamental mindset shift to one that now says, ‘The school did this. It was wrong. Let’s make it right’.
Steps are clearly outlined, and delivered with a request for acceptance in time for announcement of conclusion at the graduation ceremony on Friday June 1, 2018.
End of Week 1: Current Headmaster R Daniel Scheibe sends a letter to all faculty and staff in defense of the information circulated on The Amends Project website. In it, he perpetuates lies that had been hand-written by former Headmaster, Steven L Hahn in the 1990’s. Dan Scheibe had been aware of their untruth before choosing to utilize them in this format.
Most notably, he also makes an ethics violation by sharing details of the abuse to all current faculty and staff without the consent of the former victims. The issue of breach of confidentiality agreement for the Restorative Justice Circle is called into question.
Guidelines put forth by the School Counselors Association regarding the handling of sexual abuse details also states: “The need-to-know rule requires school counselors reveal sensitive information only when the recipients of the information has a need to know and is in a position to benefit the student if they have the shared information.”
Poignant. Now, every member of the Lawrence Academy faculty and staff has been placed in a uniquely strong position to benefit the student. Let’s consider this an invitation to sign:
Week 1: The Amends Project viewed by 274 people – including over a dozen national and regional (New England) accrediting boards, schools, youth & justice organizations – in seven countries around the world! Signatures inch toward the 100 mark.
New, second petition added through Care2.com with the option to sign anonymously.
“If we are to be really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill.” — Theodore Roosevelt