Saint Paul’s School alumni and families will gather on campus for their annual reunion and graduation ceremonies this weekend, and the school is using the occasion as an opportunity to reflect on recent revelations about decades-old sexual abuse by faculty and staff.
The school is hosting two forums — one Friday afternoon and one Saturday afternoon — at the campus library designed to give former and current students a place to talk about the issues raised in the report. Rector Mike Hirschfeld, Board of Trustees President Archie Cox, Jr., and Dean of School Life Theresa Ferns will be at each forum, according to a letter from the leaders of the alumni association.
While school officials will be on hand, Alumni Association Executive Director Alisa Barnard said the goal is more about giving alumni and students a chance to have their voices heard.
“It’s not meant to be an opportunity for us to do anything more than listen,” Barnard said. “So we’re hoping that it just is providing an open space for people to talk with one another.”
Barnard also hopes it will help to spur more dialogue between alumni from different age groups.
“When people come back for reunions, they tend to group together with their classes, their forms, and this was an opportunity to bring people together across the generations to process in their different ways how they’re reacting to the report,” Barnard said. “It’s really a first step towards starting to heal.”
Since the report was released last month, Barnard said the alumni she’s heard from have largely expressed disappointment in what was included in its findings but praise for how the school handled the investigation.
“The vast majority of alumni that I’ve spoken to have really positive feelings – not about the report, which was horrifying, shocking and surprising to a lot of people, and certainly sad,” “But they were proud of their school bringing this all to light, especially in light of the fact that hadn’t happened the last time we had the opportunity to do so.”
Investigators hired by the school to investigate faculty and staff misconduct compiled a 73-page report detailing dozens of instances in which former employees abused or otherwise mistreated students at the elite Concord prep school. The report also made note of the fact that the school embarked on a similar investigation in 2000, in response to allegations of abuse from alumni — but that investigation was never made public.
School officials have apologized for the behavior detailed in the report and for fumbling the earlier investigation, and have vowed to take steps to prevent future incidents of sexual abuse and misconduct.