Emma Willard School addresses past allegations of sex abuse

February 16, 2017 11:48 PM

TROY -- “These conversations and collaborations are the core of how this community is responding to the historical allegations of sexual assault," said Emma Willard School Interim Head of School Susan Groesbeck.

During a panel discussion on the issue Thursday, Groesbeck said the school is undertaking several initiatives to do just that.

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The school has formed an Alumnae Advisory Task Force (AATF), which reviews and provides recommendations on school policies and practices.

The school also entered into a partnership with Culture of Respect, an organization that works to prevent on-campus sexual violence and helps schools implement best practices regarding the issue.

“We help them think through concrete action-oriented steps they can do to improve those places where they want to see growth,” said Culture of Respect Senior Director, Allison Tombros Korman.”

This is the first time Culture of Respect is working with a high school.

The organization usually works with colleges and universities.

Korman said parents and schools need to have the tough conversations about sexaul abuse with students before they enter college.

The private boarding school also created a Campus Core Leadership Team that reviews the Culture of Respect practices as well as a "Healthy Boundaries" initiative, which provides the Emma Willard community with updates and reviews of policies and programs.

“Health classes for example where we've continued to spend more and more time around creating a safe environment, looking at healthy relationships,” said Shelley Maher, Dean of Students and Wellbeing.

The initiatives come after former student, Kat Sullivan, went public with claims last summer that a teacher she had a consensual relationship with raped her in 1998.

The high school said it is investigating the claims but it settled out of court with Sullivan last year.

Over the past 10 months the school held a number of trainings and forums about sexual abuse, including the first ever mandatory student forum regarding the policies in their handbook.

Inside the handbook is a list of who students can report incidents to, which is also a first for the school.  

The school also has new campus wide security system.

Thomas Crossen is a parent of a recent graduate and said he joined the Campus Core Leadership Team to give back to the 200-year-old all-girls school.

“To make this school a show place hopefully for sexual assault training and understanding,” Crossen said.

“We are very committed to the future of this school and our students their safety is always the priority,” Groesbeck said.


Nia Hamm

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