By Jeff Meyer
Six years ago, Nichols began training its faculty and staff in mandatory reporting of any improper conduct with students. In keeping with that practice, Nichols fully supports state legislation that would require all private schools to do the same.
My connection to Nichols is not as an alumnus, but as a parent who, together with my wife, watched our three children graduate from Nichols over the last nine years. I currently serve as chair of the school’s board of trustees.
Our head of school, Bill Clough, came to his position five years ago and has provided outstanding leadership in creating a safe environment for our students.
We believe deeply in Nichols based on what we’ve seen its teachers and coaches do for our kids and their classmates. We’ve seen Nichols instill in them the values of service, integrity, respect and hard work.
We are fully committed to anything that provides a safer environment for students everywhere. Therefore, I want to make clear that we at Nichols believe extending to private schools the mandated reporting of sexual misconduct is the right action to take, and we support state legislation to do so.
As important as mandated reporting is, at Nichols we haven’t stopped there in our efforts to create the safest-possible environment for our students. Some of the additional steps we have already taken include hiring a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in 2013; bringing outside experts, such as McLane Middleton, to campus to train faculty and staff in all areas of wellness and proper student-adult relationships; establishing a five-teacher Core Group that offers resources and a place for students to talk anonymously about health, wellness and substance abuse issues; and having representatives from The Teal Project educate our students on sexual assault awareness.
In addition, Nichols has formal, mandatory wellness classes in each of grades 5-9, and students in grades 10-12 all participate in wellness workshops throughout the year. These workshops are presented by local and nationally recognized organizations.
We promote boundaries that are well-defined and enforced, and we urge our students to be proactive in reporting anything unusual or worrisome. We will continue to work to make our school the safest place possible.
Much attention has been appropriately devoted to the independent report about teacher misconduct (mostly in the ‘80s and ‘90s) that our board released on Jan. 5. From the very beginning of that process, we’ve taken a transparent approach, making the investigation independent, releasing the report publicly, and apologizing to the victims.
The approach that we’ve taken is consistent with the rationale behind the mandated reporting legislation. Our approach to the investigation and the legislation on mandated reporting of sexual misconduct aim at the same thing: Creating a safer environment for students everywhere.
Jeff Meyer is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Nichols School.