Washington National Cathedral report corroborates allegations of staff sexual misconduct against 16 students

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To Our Cathedral Close Community,

Earlier this year, the leaders of the Cathedral Close institutions—Beauvoir, National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, and Washington National Cathedral—and I embarked on a proactive, painful, and important process to learn about instances of sexual misconduct by adults against children in each institution’s past.  Today, we join to present a summary of the findings of the independent investigation of this misconduct, preceded by my words here and a letter from the professional leaders and board chairs of the three schools and the Cathedral. 

Although I am relieved that the investigation did not find any current issues of sexual misconduct by adults against students, as the President and Chair of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which oversees the Close institutions, I am deeply troubled by the investigation’s findings about sexual misconduct from decades past.  

Before saying anything more, I want to speak directly to the victims and survivors of this abuse.  In our faith tradition, when we welcome children into the community, we promise to cherish them and protect them, a promise we make to them, their families, and before God.  For the victims and survivors of past abuse and your families, this promise was broken.  I apologize for that failing and ask for your forgiveness. 

Our actions, however, only begin with an apology.  We must also make tangible and sustained efforts to continually evaluate and, where appropriate, strengthen the safeguards that, thankfully, are already in place.  I fully endorse and personally commit to ensuring the implementation of the recommendations coming out of the independent investigation, outlined in the letter below by the leaders of the four institutions, including providing counseling support to those who were harmed by sexual misconduct committed by adults during their time on the Close.

At the beginning of this investigation, I shared my hope that our efforts would help to heal the wounds of those who have suffered abuse.  While these findings are painful to learn, they are critical to that healing process, and they hold us accountable to observe practices and policies that create a safe, healthy environment for children and adults.  I am deeply grateful for all those who came forward to tell their stories, and for the leaders of the Cathedral Close who have worked tirelessly to face the truth of our past with transparency and a common commitment for the wellbeing of all children entrusted to our care. 

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Diocese of Washington 

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To Our Cathedral Close Community,

We write to you today to report on the independent investigation into past sexual misconduct by adults against students that our four institutions—Beauvoir, National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, and Washington National Cathedral—undertook earlier this year.  We did so in order to gain a fuller understanding of any incidents where children on the Close were abused so that we can help those who were harmed by it and do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.  

We want to emphasize how deeply we care about the safety of all of our children on the Close.  It is important that we underscore at the outset that this investigation was not a response to any reports of recent sexual misconduct by adults against students, and, in fact, no allegations of sexual misconduct by any current employees of our institutions against students were received during the investigation.  The investigation confirmed that we have strong safeguards today consistent with best practices for institutions of our kind and a vigilant community dedicated to the protection of students.  

The investigation did, however, reveal incidents from our past that are deeply troubling and we want to be both transparent in reporting those incidents to you as well as committed to taking measures to continue to keep our current and future students safe.  Our faith calls on us to examine the parts of our lives where we have fallen short in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone.  It is with that context that we take responsibility and offer a sincere apology for the abuse of trust and betrayal of innocence caused by former adult members of this community in decades past.  

When we first embarked on this process, we decided that it was critically important for the investigation to be thorough and independent.  For that reason, we retained the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, one of the most experienced firms in the country in sexual misconduct investigations for independent schools and other organizations.  The firm had no prior relationship with any of the Close institutions and was given free rein to do their work, including being given full and unfettered access to records, information, and witnesses within the control of the boards of our institutions.  Their job was to look unflinchingly at our past and make findings on whether employees and the institutions themselves acted appropriately. 

Debevoise has spent the last four months speaking to everyone who came forward with information.  In all, Debevoise conducted interviews with more than 200 people and reviewed more than 40,000 documents as part of an unstinting review of our institutions’ history.  As the attached document details, the investigators were able to corroborate that 16 former adult members of our community engaged in sexual misconduct against students.  For all adults credibly accused of sexual misconduct against students, we have made reports to law enforcement and to employers where the adults might have had access to children.

Debevoise has now reported its findings to the institution heads, boards, and chapter, and to the Board of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation (PECF), the entity that oversees the Close institutions. As we promised to you in our March letter, we are now providing the community with a summary of those findings with respect to each institution, which is attached to this letter.  We ask you, as you prepare to read it, to be aware that it contains descriptions of past child sexual abuse that are upsetting.  Some of the past incidents were known about at the time and, in most cases, the accused teachers and staff members were forced to resign.  In other instances, actions were taken that were not as decisive as they would be today. Most of the misconduct was first learned about years later, with some incidents coming to light only because of the current independent investigation.  It was, and remains, our sincere goal that this process will help victims or survivors achieve some measure of healing and peace, and we are committed to treating all those impacted with the greatest care and compassion. 

Part of this investigation and examination of our past included a review of our current policies and procedures.  That review confirmed that we have strong protections in place today.   Like many institutions, those safeguards have improved over time.  We believe they could be strengthened further.  Our regular outside counsel and Debevoise have made a number of recommendations on ways the Close institutions could further strengthen or improve our child safety protocol and better monitor our practices.  They have also offered suggestions on ways to provide counseling for any former student who was a victim in the past.  We fully embrace these recommendations and will take the following actions:

Board Oversight of Student Safety.  In addition to existing and ongoing efforts by the heads and dean of each individual Close institution to focus on safeguarding student safety at our respective institutions, the Board of the PECF will appoint a continuing committee on student safety that will exercise general oversight to ensure effectiveness and consistency in policies, training, and prevention across all institutions on the Close.  The committee will include representatives from each of our four institutions, as well as an outside expert on student safety.   

Senior PECF Executive. To ensure consistency and best practices across the Close, a new PECF executive position will be created that will oversee and ensure, among other things, that each Close institution is in continual compliance with the PECF’s student safety policies and monitors and implements current best practices for protecting student safety.  The executive will report directly to the PECF Board.  

Support and Counseling.  We want not only to acknowledge the pain felt by each of the victims or survivors of past sexual misconduct by adults on the Close, but also to offer our support.  As we did in March, we once again invite any victims or survivors who seek counseling to reach out to our counselors, whose contact information is listed on PECFFindings.org.  You can also contact our PECF Human Resources Manager (or Interim Director), Maureen Murphy, who can provide you with referrals to mental health professionals and information about reimbursement on a confidential basis.  She can be reached at mmurphy@cathedral.org or at (202) 537-6234. For those who would like to access counseling independent of the Close, we have contracted with the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education in Fairfax, Virginia, a group of trained mental health professionals with experience counseling victims of child sexual abuse.  You can access their services by calling Malvolia Gregory at (703) 560-2600.  Further details regarding this option, including reimbursement, will be posted on our websites and PECFFindings.org in the coming weeks.

Policy Enhancements. Consistent with our regular practice of continual review and improvement of our existing policies and practices, the PECF, and each Close institution, will adopt a series of policy enhancements to strengthen further our child safety measures.  The existing and new features of our student safety measures will be discussed with parents at the start of school in the fall.

Coordinate Protocol for Student-on-Student Sexual Misconduct.  While this investigation focused on sexual misconduct by adults against students, we also take very seriously student-on-student sexual misconduct issues, which have always been addressed by each individual school’s administrators in consultation, where needed, with regular outside counsel. We will, going forward, pursue a more collaborative process to address student-on-student incidents. Consequently, St. Albans and National Cathedral School, as well as the other Close institutions, will develop and administer a coordinate protocol for acting on reports of sexual misconduct involving students from their institutions.

We thank you all for your patience throughout this process, and express enormous gratitude to all those who came forward to provide information to the investigators and help shine a light on the past.  Because of your courage, you have played an important part in our effort to fully understand and grapple with a painful chapter from our past.  For those with relevant experiences or information who have not yet come forward, we again encourage you to contact our independent investigator, Mary Beth Hogan, at (212) 909-6996 or mbhogan@debevoise.com, so that this process can be as comprehensive as possible.

As we seek to fulfill our sacred responsibility ahead, we ask for your prayers and we welcome your thoughts, concerns, and questions.  The institution heads will also remain personally available to anyone seeking pastoral support and guidance.

Sincerely,

Sincerely,

Cindi Gibbs-Wilborn
Head of School, Beauvoir
          William J. Kappaz
Chair, Beauvoir Governing Board
Kathleen O’Neill Jamieson
Head of School, National Cathedral School
          Alice Hill
Chair, NCS Governing Board
Jason Robinson
Headmaster, St. Albans School
          Robert Musslewhite
Chair, St. Albans Governing Board
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Dean, Washington National Cathedral
          Andrew C. Florance
Chair, Cathedral Chapter 

The summary of the findings of the independent investigation can be read here.