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"We Are on the Side of Any Victim" - NAIS to me (#MeToo)

“We’re on the side of any victim,” a spokesperson at the NAIS said to me yesterday. She declined to describe any NAIS policy (if there is one) and referred me to the legal department there to inquire further. No answer yet.

The NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) is the accrediting agency for the New York State Association of Independent Schools, of which Saint David’s and the Convent of the Sacred Heart are members.

I include Sacred Heart because in one of the recent civil complaints against Saint David’s, a student at Sacred Heart was referenced, as she (and others) had apparently also been sexually abused by a Saint David’s teacher.

Tony was sexually molested by three (3) different male Saint David’s teachers beginning in fifth grade (at 10 years old) and continuing with little interruption until he graduated in eighth grade (at 13 years old), or between the years of 1969-1973.... one of the same teachers molesting Plaintiff was also having sex with Tony’s former girlfriend, an eighth-grade girl attending the “Convent of the Sacred Heart” school (“Sacred Heart”). She was 14... Saint David’s headmaster [David Hume] told Tony that an administrator from Sacred Heart recently called to inform him that some girls attending Sacred Heart (in addition to the one mentioned above) and “many” Saint David’s boys were being sexually molested by one or more Saint David’s teachers. Yet, the headmaster never said that Saint David’s planned to do anything to end the molestation. (from civil complaint filed vs. Saint David’s 8/7/2020)

When presented with this publicly available information (by an anonymous third party) the Headmaster of Sacred Heart, Joe Ciancaglini, told his administrators and legal team verbatim: “To admin who are copied, do not respond. To Risk Committee, I do not intend to respond.” I know this because I was cc’d on his reply, as I had been a recipient of the anonymous email too.

The anonymous source had written:

Dear Mr. Ciancaglini and colleagues at Sacred Heart,

As a Saint David’s alumnus and brother to a Sacred Heart alumna, I’m writing to let you know about the current child sex abuse cases at Saint David’s, in case you weren’t aware, and that in one of the current civil complaints filed against Saint David’s, a Sacred Heart student was mentioned as also having been abused by a Saint David’s teacher back in the 1970s....

It was fascinating to receive Mr. Ciancaglini’s response, and to hear the support voiced by various members of the school’s staff, including its legal counsel (“Thanks Joe. Good approach.”)

“I do not intend to respond.”

Why not, instead, say something like: “I am appalled to hear this news, and will do everything I can to find out what happened, and whether we at Sacred Heart can help this woman and help the men at Saint David’s”?

Instead, Mr. Ciancaglini decided to meet child sexual abuse with ... silence.

It should be surprising that Ciancaglini responded in that way.

After all, it’s a Catholic school, espousing, one would assume, the kinds of values that drove Jesus, Saint Francis, and Mother Theresa, among many others (including, by the way, two of my father’s cousins who were nuns).

But it’s sadly not surprising. The US Roman Catholic Church spent nearly $3M from 2011 through 2018 to lobby AGAINST the Child Victims Act in New York State alone (and about $7M to lobby against similar legislation in seven other states).

I come back again and again to this gentle question: the men who were sexually abused by teachers at Saint David’s School in the 1960s and 1970s deserve acknowledgment, would you not agree?

Would it be impossible for Saint David’s to address its alumni survivors with the following?

1. We are so, so sorry that this happened to you.

2. We will take steps to investigate the one living rapist, Rey Buono, and assist in his prosecution

3. We ensure that this will never happen again

4. We know this has damaged your life, and affects your life to this day, as some of you are talking about your sexual abuse for the first time ever – we understand how very, very painful this must be

5. We vow to uphold our own principles and morals as a Catholic school devoted to doing the right thing for its entire community, especially its alumni

6. We will take any steps you need to help you come back to yourself and to heal the child that was so gravely wounded years ago, on our watch; we made a mistake.

7. If we can offer financial compensation for therapy, out-of-work costs, trauma treatment, counseling, and so on, please name a figure that would be helpful to you. We have an endowment of over $70 million, so money is no object.

You would think the Roman Catholic Church would have learned something from the hundreds of sex abuse cases in the Boston area, which the movie “Spotlight” highlighted.

I mean, really. I want to say “Shame on you, Joe.”

And shame on anyone who continues the cycle of sexual violence against children.

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