Message from the Headmaster

September 15, 2017

Dear Members of the Country Day Family,

At our opening faculty meeting, our teachers were asked to write down three words which epitomized “The Country Day Experience.” Overwhelmingly, their response was community.

We are so proud of the community we have created on Old Church Road. The protection and enhancement of our community are two of our most important duties, and, to that end, we believe strong communities take care of all their members, past and present. This includes open and honest communication, even when the subject might be painful. That is why we believe, though many decades have passed, it is important to inform you that an allegation of sexual misconduct by a former teacher in the late 1960s and early 1970s has come to our attention.

We believe the responsibility to our community (past, present, and future) is to show our commitment and support to any past victims of abuse. Thus, we write to you today to encourage anyone with information regarding any incident of sexual misconduct, regardless of when the incident occurred, to contact Adam Rohdie directly at 203.863.5650 or arohdie@gcds.net. We understand that this is a difficult subject to discuss, and it is important that you know that we make this request from a place of great empathy and care.

GCDS is completely committed to adhering to the highest standards of student safety on campus. This includes, but is not limited to, conducting background and reference checks, mandated training for all faculty and staff, and ongoing professional development. Our school fully complies with all federal, state, and local laws with respect to prevention, reporting, and investigating sexual misconduct. We also believe we have an obligation to seek out and address instances or allegations of sexual misconduct that may have gone unreported to us in the past.

The decision to undertake this review was not made in haste. After much discussion, we concluded that this allegation opened the door for Country Day to join so many of our peer schools in shining a light on a topic that was previously kept in the shadows. Now is the time for our community to come together once again to support each other. Initiating this review is a first step in that process. We know that as we support each other we will only strengthen our community, which we all hold close to our hearts.

Sincerely,
Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster
Daniel W. Offit
President, Board of Trustees


April 13, 2018

Dear Members of the GCDS Family,

On Old Church Road, the protection and enrichment of our community are two of our most important duties, and, to that end, we believe strong communities take care of all their members, past and present. This November, we wrote to you to let you know that an allegation of sexual misconduct by a former teacher in the late 1960s and 1970s had been brought to our attention. At that time, we immediately engaged the law firm Shipman & Goodwin LLP (“Shipman”) to conduct an objective investigation. Shipman reviewed our internal files, spoke with past and current faculty, administration, and conducted direct interviews with all the alumni who contacted us.

Shipman has concluded its investigation and reported to us, and we write today to share important findings.

Based on the report, we determined that we should identify two former faculty members who engaged in inappropriate sexual contact of children at the school. While Shipman identified other boundary issues in its review, and there were issues brought to the attention of Shipman concerning other individuals from the past, the decision to publish these two names is based on the nature and extent of the allegations, the weight of evidence supporting these allegations, and whether the allegations could be corroborated.

  • Shipman received credible allegations that Peter French, who was employed by the school from 1961 through 1999, engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with at least five students from the 1960s through the 1980s. Shipman interviewed Mr. French and confronted him with the evidence against him, and he admitted that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with students. GCDS has reported Mr. French to the Department of Children and Families, as well as to law enforcement in the community where he currently resides.
  • Shipman also received credible allegations that Jim Arden, who was employed by the school from 1970 to 2001, had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with at least three students. Mr. Arden died in 2016.

While this undertaking is incredibly painful, we hope that our recent efforts to investigate past abuse and our subsequent sharing of these findings can help bring some comfort to victims of past abuse. Such conduct is unconscionable, and no child should ever be exposed to it at a school or anywhere else. We want to thank the alumni for stepping forward to share their stories. We know that no action that we take today will erase the deep pain caused, but we do hope that our commitment, now and in the future, to confront all such behavior, may bring some healing. This report also allows me, once again, to offer my deepest personal apologies and to apologize on behalf of the school, and to offer our help and support to the survivors of misconduct.

I invite anyone who has additional information they would like to share to contact me directly or Morgan Rueckert at Shipman (860) 251-5821, mrueckert@goodwin.com.

As with so many independent schools, the Country Day of today, is a much different institution than the one of the last century in terms of the policies and procedures we have in place to protect the students in our care. We hold as central to our mission the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone who spends their days on Old Church Road. We regularly review our practices in faculty and staff hiring and training, including:

We adhere to formal policies and procedures to prevent and assure the reporting of problematic conduct. Every member of our faculty and staff receives training sessions on boundary issues, sexual harassment prevention, and mandatory reporting. We commission background checks by third-party agencies of all hires. The school’s reporting policy is clearly outlined in the employee handbook and is regularly reviewed in training sessions. We examine and update our policies on a yearly basis.

Our commitment extends beyond policies and procedures; we are dedicated to fostering a community culture where every member of the GCDS family is valued, safe, and proactive in caring for others. Our promise remains, as reflected in our mission statement, to “enable all children in our care to discover and develop what is finest in themselves.”

As always, if you have any concerns or questions, please call or email me at 203.863.5650 or arohdie@gcds.net.

Sincerely,

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster
Daniel W. Offit
President, Board of Trustees