Another Illustrations of Why We Will Not Allow Children to be Removed from Campus without Parental Consent

Elite California school releases report detailing four decades of sexual misconduct – from Daily Mail full article here

One of California‘s most prestigious private boarding schools, The Thacher School, has released an explosive report documenting four decades of alleged sexual misconduct by teachers and staff, including the rape of a 16-year-old student.

The detailed 91-page report was compiled by an outside law firm following a months-long investigation, and was posted on the school’s official website on Wednesday.

The Thacher School is an exclusive $64,000-a-year boarding school, sprawled on 427 acres in Ojai, California, located some 80 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Some notable alumni include aviator and filmmaker Howard Hughes and author Thornton Wilder, who wrote the celebrated play Our Town. 

The newly released report lists alleged instances of sexual misconduct by faculty against students spanning 40 years and running the gamut from inappropriate comments and ‘boundary crossing’ behavior, to harassment, groping and rape.

The most serious allegation detailed in the report involves a former English teacher, accused of repeatedly raping a female student in the 1980s, starting when she was just 16 years old. 

The Thacher School, an exclusive boarding school in Ojai, California, has released an explosive report detailing 40 years of allegations of sexual misconduct and rape by staff against students

When the abuse was uncovered by the school, an assistant headmaster who interviewed the victim was said to have asked if she ‘enjoyed’ the sex, a psychologist dissuaded the girl’s family from pressing criminal charges, and the accused teacher resigned, but was invited back to campus for an event decades later.

According to the report, which was put together by the Los Angeles-based law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson in the summer of 2020, The Thacher School learned of suspected sexual misconduct from multiple alleged victims, including through the Instagram account @rpecultureatrthacher, where alumni have been anonymously sharing their accounts of abuse.

In August, Daniel Yih, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, announced the independent probe and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.

Over the next 10 months, the law firm interviewed 120 former students and parents, current and former faculty, staff and board members, some repeatedly, and reviewed 40,000 documents.

The report does not name the alleged victims to preserve their privacy, but it names six accused faculty members, none of whom has been criminally charged so far.

Former Head of School Willard Wyman, who resigned in 1992 and died in 2014, had faced accusations of inappropriate touching and making improper comments

Former Head of School Willard Wyman, who resigned in 1992 and died in 2014, had faced accusations of inappropriate touching and making improper comments 

Many of the incidents detailed in the report took place decades ago and likely fall outside the statute of limitations, but the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office told the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story, that the agency was in the process of reviewing the allegations.

‘We are going to look into them on a case-by-case basis,’ Sgt Hector Macias told the paper. ‘We are going to continue to work with the school and their law office in order to vet some of this out and see if the victims are willing to cooperate.’

Arguably the most damning section of the report concerns the conduct of a popular English teacher and boys’ lacrosse and baseball coach, who came to teach at Thacher in 1985.

A Thacher alumna, identified in the document only as ‘Student A,’ who attended the elite school in the 1980s, said that she first befriended the teacher during her freshman year, when she felt homesick and ‘lost.

Their relationship took a sexual turn when the teacher allegedly kissed and touched the teenage girl without her consent after she returned from walking his dog. 

Then one night during her sophomore year, the girl, then 16, claimed that the English teacher raped her for the first time.

‘Student A told us that afterwards she was traumatized and bleeding,’ the report states.

In an unsent letter addressed to the then-current Head of School Michael Mulligan, the alumna described the aftermath of that first rape, which took place on the eve of the fall camping trip, writing: ‘I bled for an entire week after the first time I was raped. I was alone in the woods with my classmates with no comfort or support.’

According to the accuser, the teacher proceeded to sexually abuse and rape her multiple times a week throughout the rest of the sophomore year and into her junior year.

‘When I tried to get away from him or showed any interest in a boy my age he would either tell me horrible lies about the person or he would try to publicly humiliate me in front of other students to remind me who was in charge,’ she wrote in her unsent letter.

One of the most damning sections of the report involves an alumna of the elite $64,000-a-year school, who claimed she was repeatedly raped by her English teacher in the 1980s

According to the former student, during her junior year, the teacher grew violent, once throwing her across the room with such force that she lost consciousness, and also introduced her and other students to drugs ‘as a way of having control over us…’

She continued: ‘it was a horrible, scary, hopeless time.’

The girl ultimately confided in her mother about the alleged rapes, and the woman reached out to the school, setting in motion a series of interviews with administrators and officials.

The alumna recounted how during one interview, a dean questioned her about the teacher’s actions and asked if she ‘enjoyed’ specific sex acts.

The law firm’s report stated that the dean denied asking the student if she enjoyed the sex.

In the wake of the scandal, the English teacher resigned in the late 1980s. The lawyers who conducted the independent probe stated that they have found no evidence that anyone at the school ever reported the teacher’s conduct to the police.

An outside psychologist who spoke to the student after the teacher’s resignation reported possible child abuse to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, which ultimately dropped the case, stating that the ‘complainant refuses to participate.’

The psychologist who counseled the girl later wrote to the then-Head of School Willard Wyman that he and school staff had convinced the girl’s mother that it would be in her daughter’s ‘best interest not to press charges, as it would further isolate her from her peers.

The mother told the authors of the new report that Wyman pressured her not to pursue a criminal case against the teacher and conditioned her daughter’s return to Thacher on an agreement not to file a lawsuit ‘or make a fuss,’ according to the document.

The former student said she was blamed for the popular teacher’s departure, and was retaliated against by his colleagues and her peers, who believed that the relationship was consensual.

The school’s college letter of recommendation for the student included a mention of her ‘unfortunate involvement with a faculty member,’ but praised her for showing ‘resilience’ and ‘sense of responsibility.’

Wyman, who headed the school from 1975 to 1992, was also accused of inappropriate conduct involving offensive comments and touching toward female students and staff. 

According to the report, the head of school allegedly asked to students to wear ‘sexy’ clothes to a dinner party at his house and placed a hand on a teen’s backside. 

Wyman resigned in 1992, and died in 2014. 

Wyman was succeeded by Mulligan, who served as dean of students during the scandal involving the English teacher in the 1980s.

The report details how Mulligan later supported the hiring of a soccer coach at Thacher, even though he was aware that the man previously was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female player at another boarding school in New England. 

Mulligan told the authors of the report he thought the man was a ‘great coach’ and it was ‘inconceivable’ to him that he would make the same ‘mistake’ at Thacher.

When it later emerged that the coach, who was said to have cultivated a ‘cult-like’ atmosphere with his players and had them address him as ‘Captain, my captain,’ was spending a lot of time alone with a student, Mulligan reportedly directed another teacher to counsel the coach. 

Mulligan told the lawyers compiling the report that he regretted supporting the coach’s hiring, and then not confronting the coach himself.

In a letter addressed to the Thacher community and dated June 12, Mulligan wrote in part: ‘I particularly regret situations where certain decisions I made contributed to this suffering, and I fully accept that criticism.’ 

Yih, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, apologized to the sexual abuse survivors and their families in a  separate letter accompanying the report.   

‘We have learned a great deal about our history over the past several months — much of which has been difficult to confront,’ he wrote. 

The school announced that it would take a series of ‘corrective actions’ to address and prevent sexual misconduct in the future. Those actions include revising policies and procedures; improving training and education; implementing general strategies to reduce the risk of sexual misconduct, and strengthening oversight, among others.