One of Oregon’s most prestigious private schools announced this week an inquiry into allegations of “sexual misconduct” by staff. The context of the letter indicates that the allegations involve sexual abuse of students by Catlin Gabel staff.
The Catlin Gabel School announced in an open letter to alumni that it had received “reports about sexual misconduct by a former faculty member who left Catlin Gabel over 15 years ago.” The letter was posted on the Catlin Gabel School website on October 10, 2018. (The text of the letter can be found at the bottom of this post.)
The letter from the School does not identify the specific allegations, how many victims have come forward, the nature and circumstances of their abuse, or the identity of the perpetrators. Catlin Gabel leadership also did not specify whether allegations have been (or will be) referred to law enforcement for independent investigation and possible prosecution.
Rather, Catlin Gabel has announced that it has commissioned an internal investigation. The investigation will be undertaken by a lawyer hired by the school that specializes in assisting companies with workplace harassment issues. The School’s internal investigating attorney states she has “extensive experience in Human Resources” and understands the importance of “minimizing disruption to your workplace.” The School’s letter is unclear about whether the complete findings from the investigation will be shared with the school community.
Catlin Gabel also posted the letter on social media (including Facebook), although nothing in the text of the post or the title of the linked page indicated that involved issues related to sexual abuse:
In response to the School’s post, several Catlin Gabel alumni commented commending the School for what they described as the School’s transparency and “proactive” response. Of course, it remains unseen whether there will be any evidence that Catlin Gable had prior knowledge of the abuse. However, another commenter on Facebook indicated awareness of “four” Catlin Gabel staff who allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct, “including a woman who assaulted [sic] a child.”
This is not the first time that sexual abuse allegations by a Catlin Gabel staff member have been raised publicly. In late September 2018, with the Kavanaugh hearings at the center of the national discourse, another woman posted a blog post detailing sexual misconduct she was subjected to by an individual associated with Catlin Gabel. This blogger also detailed her interactions with Catlin Gabel leadership following her report to the school. The blogger describes a response from Catlin Gabel leadership that could be fairly understood as minimizing her experience and being less than transparent or proactive in taking meaningful responsive action. You can read that blog post here.
Similarly, in 2013, a former Catlin Gabel coach named Deonte Tavon Huff was convicted on criminal charges for his sexual abuse of three Catlin Gabel students. Huff was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Coach Huff worked at Catlin Gabel for several years coaching middle school volleyball, basketball and track. You can read that article here.
Catlin Gabel is an independent, non-religious private school located in the West Haven-Sylvan neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Catlin Gabel has existed in its current from since 1957, the result of the merger of two predecessors (Catlin-Hillside School and Gabel Country Day School). Catlin Gabel’s predecessors trace their history as far back as 1859. Today, Catlin Gabel offers pre-K through 12th grade and has nearly 800 students enrolled. According to its most recent tax filings (2016 Form 990), Catlin Gabel School has net assets of more than $50 million.
Crew Janci has represented many victims of sexual abuse by teachers and coaches, including against large and prestigious private schools. Most recently, Crew Janci successfully represented 21 victims of sexual abuse against the elite Pingry School – an effort that was detailed in media across the country, including the The New York Times. Crew Janci attorneys were able to obtain a positive outcome for their clients despite arguments that the statute of limitations should have prohibited the decades-old claims.
If you have information about abuse at Catlin Gabel or a similar private school, please contact us confidentially at 503-306-0224 or use our confidential online contact form here. We will keep your identity confidential and treat you with respect.
The pertinent, substantive text of the letter posted by Catlin Gabel on its school website on October 10, 2018 is set out below. [*NOTE: The text of the letter has been edited to remove names and contact information of the School’s investigating attorney and affiliated staff because Crew Janci LLP does not endorse these individuals or suggest that victims will be well-served by reporting to an internal investigation controlled by the Catlin Gabel School; the Catlin Gabel School’s interests are likely legally adverse to those of the victims.]
Dear Catlin Gabel community,
At Catlin Gabel School, our greatest priority is to provide an educational environment in which students feel safe, and free of misconduct and harassment in all forms. This is an important part of who we are as a school and a community.
We write to inform you that we have received reports about sexual misconduct by a former faculty member who left Catlin Gabel over 15 years ago. We are deeply troubled by these reports and sympathetic to the survivors, and we are taking action. The Board of Trustees has retained an independent investigator . . . to engage in a broad inquiry that will not be limited to any one individual or time period at Catlin Gabel. When the investigation is complete, the Board will share information with the community including any immediate action steps.
We strongly encourage anyone in our community with knowledge of any sexual misconduct by a Catlin Gabel employee at any point in the school’s history to speak with [the School’s investigating attorney]. Any concerns brought forward will be treated with sensitivity and support . . . .
We take these reports very seriously, and want to hear from you. We will continue to support those alumni who have come forward and will stand with them and all survivors of sexual misconduct. We are deeply sorry for their pain.
We are committed to understanding any past failures in the prevention and handling of misconduct. Catlin Gabel today is proactive in preventing employee misconduct, and we have many employee policies and procedures in place to safeguard our students. We will continue to emphasize these efforts while remaining open to listening, and learning what more we can do.
We sympathize with all members of the community who have suffered. Anyone who comes forward to share their concerns will have our full support for doing so.
Tim Bazemore, Head of School
Bart Eberwein, Chair of the Board of Trustees[END OF LETTER]