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.
Week 37: Time to Review Our Rights!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (978) 448-1526
Bruce MacNeil email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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: email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com
. . . 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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