NYSAIS and NAIS Update re Sex Abuse in NY Schools
From the NYSAIS in reply to my letter asking for clarification around policy in independent school [italics mine]:
Thank you for reaching out to the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). The stories of victims have been heartbreaking. On behalf of the NYSAIS, I can assure you that your concerns, and those of all abuse survivors, resonate strongly within our entire community.
(screenshot from Saint David's School website)
NYSAIS believes that it is a fundamental expectation that schools will provide a safe environment for all members of their communities. To this end, NYSAIS requires all member schools to put into practice policies and procedures to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct and abuse to the fullest extent possible. Specific action steps are described in detail in the NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct and Abuse. This document was created by the NYSAIS Board of Trustees and follows the recommendations by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS). The NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct and Abuse, which were adopted in 2018, define high standards and ethical behavior in key areas. This document can be found on the NYSAIS website.
In addition, each NYSAIS member-school regularly subjects its programs and operations to a professional, rigorous, impartial, multi-year accreditation process that analyzes comprehensive standards that schools must meet and encompasses all aspects of school life, including child and student protection and well-being. These requirements identify policies and practices that the school needs to have in place at all levels. Every accreditation leads to a clear action plan for continuous improvement in all areas of the school. Schools that do not meet these rigorous standards risk, among other actions, jeopardizing their membership status. Finally, NYSAIS, in conjunction with Austin & Co., has created and disseminated Pre-Employment Screening Guidelines that include a fingerprinting requirement, thorough reference and background checks, and inquiries about previous disciplinary actions. While Principles of Best Practice, accreditation, and pre-employment screening in 2020 and beyond cannot address the historical experiences of students in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's, it is our hope that current and future children will be better prepared and protected from sexual misconduct and abuse.
We hope these processes demonstrate key levels of evaluation and support offered to member schools to protect the physical and emotional safety and well-being of all students and also address the questions in your letter. We wish you and all of the victims seeking amends an acceptable resolution to your concerns.
And the NAIS also replied:
As a membership organization, NAIS provides information and education, including legal education, but not legal advice or assistance. Our resources are generally designed to help school leaders understand legislation and regulations and manage more effectively.
Several years ago, we created a task force to look at educator sexual abuse and to develop a set of recommendations to help schools prevent misconduct and to address cases of abuse (both current and historic). As part of the task force, we produced this booklet of recommendations and conducted many professional development trainings to help schools. We also worked with accreditors to ensure that child protection was included in every accreditor’s standards (NAIS requires accreditation as a condition of membership).
Although the task force ended, we continue to work to prevent child sexual abuse through our work on coalitions and partner organizations and by sharing information with schools to help them improve their child protection policies and practices.