Messages from Marjo

Head of School Marjo TalbottMarjo Talbott
Head of School

BUILDING ON LESSONS LEARNED
David Wolowitz '64

David Wolowitz ’64—an internationally respected lawyer and prominent expert on oversight of a healthy school culture—returns to Maret to host a regular workshop for all faculty about the prevention of abuse and establishing healthy boundaries.


Dear Maret Community Members,

As we reach the halfway mark of the school year, I want to update you on what has occurred since we published the “Report of Independent Investigation” into misconduct by former Maret faculty members. As Ian Cameron, President of the Board, and I acknowledged at the time, these revelations were extremely impactful and disturbing for members across our community. Releasing the report—and, in four cases, naming former teachers—can never undo the past; but by confronting and understanding our history, apologizing for harm done, and developing mechanisms that promote a safe learning environment, we can strive to ensure that this type of behavior never occurs again at Maret.

In September, I presented the findings to parents in all three Divisions and met with Upper School students to further explain the investigation, the resulting Report, and our plans to ensure that Maret fully lives up to its Mission and Core Values. In addition, I have discussed the Report at various alumni gatherings, including the Alumni Council in October and our New York and Boston alumni receptions in November and December. Additional gatherings in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are planned for later this spring. I am very grateful to the alumni who have contacted me directly to discuss their reactions to the Report. We have also informed our community about the Therapy Support Program, which was established in the spring of 2018.

We continue to regularly review Maret’s policies, training, and other safeguards to protect every student in our care. All faculty members are, by law, mandatory reporters who must annually take an online course created by the District of Columbia; they are also required to sign Maret’s Code of Conduct, which has been in place for over five years. This week, David Wolowitz ’64—an attorney and prominent expert on oversight of a healthy school culture—returned to host a two-hour workshop for all employees about the present landscape in schools concerning educator misconduct and boundary violations. We worked through numerous imagined scenarios which began with seemingly benign actions that could lead to boundary crossings.

In age-appropriate fashion across all Divisions, our Wellness classes emphasize body autonomy, consent, and the importance of boundaries with others. In November, five Upper School students and two faculty members attended a local Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent, where they heard from a panel of survivors and participated in a range of workshops. These students have partnered with the Upper School clubs “End Sexual Assault Now” and “Women of the World” as well as members of the Upper School Administrative Team to develop programming for students in the upcoming months. They also developed a poster campaign with information about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Representatives of two outside groups will speak to students this month: Jordin Babin from the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA) and Jamie O’Leary from One Love Foundation. JCADA’s mission is to support victims of power-based violence to become empowered and live safely; educate the community about power-based violence and appropriate responses; and prevent future generations from suffering power-based violence. One Love’s mission is to empower young people to identify and avoid abuse and learn how to love better through education about healthy and unhealthy relationships. In the next few weeks, Upper School advisors and grade deans will also review with students Maret’s policies around consent and assault and discuss boundary issues—all with an eye to promoting students’ sense of safety and empowerment at Maret and beyond.

We recognize that safeguarding our students is an ongoing process, one that demands vigilance and continual review. This work has been and will remain a top priority for our school.

The Investigation remains open. Since the release of the Report, a number of alumni have contacted the independent investigators or me directly. Some have provided additional firsthand and secondhand accounts that corroborate the faculty misconduct and abuse documented in the Report. In addition, two alumni reported allegations relating to the conduct of two former teachers who were not previously identified. Maret has reported this information to the appropriate authorities, and we have followed up with the survivors. We will continue to evaluate any information and will apply the same criteria for naming faculty set forth in the Report. As of now, these new allegations do not meet those established criteria. None of the allegations include faculty presently at the school—in fact, none of the teachers have worked at Maret since 2008.

We greatly appreciate the courage shown by survivors who come forward to share their personal stories. We apologize to all of these individuals for what they had to endure from adults who abused their power and harmed students in their care.

As a reminder, anyone who has not come forward but wishes to do so may contact our independent investigators:

Thank you for your support as we continue to navigate through our past and work to make Maret the best it can be. As always, my door is open to any member of the community who would like to discuss any element of the Report or our present programming.

Sincerely,
Marjo Talbott
Head of School