15 Kinkaid School students abused over 3 decades: investigators

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An investigation at one of the most prestigious schools in Houston, The Kinkaid School, has found three former faculty members committed acts of sexual misconduct towards at least 15 students over three decades.

The school's board of trustees announced in May 2018 that it was launching an investigation after learning of allegations against four faculty members employed from the late 1960s to the early 1990s.

The board retained help from T&M Protection Resources, which interviewed 58 former students, current and former faculty, staff and administrators to reach its final conclusion against three of the accused.

Two of the three former school employees were also interviewed, while the third died before the investigation could begin.

According to a letter released to parents late Thursday, investigators found one faculty member employed in the late 1960s and early 1970s inappropriately touched eight students, all between the ages of 10 and 13.

A second faculty member employed at the school in the late 1980s and early 1990s engaged in "boundary crossing behaviors, sexual misconduct, including inappropriate touching,...an attempted sexual assault, as well as soliciting" six students between the ages of 14 and 17 for sex, according to the board.

A third faculty member was found to have engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student in the 1990s, which "included physical contact and a sexual interaction," the board said.

T&M could not make a finding with respect to the fourth former faculty member that was accused, the board said.

Kinkaid School said no current member of their faculty or staff have been accused of wrongdoing.

With the investigation considered closed, the school said it has reported its findings to local and state authorities, but stopped short of releasing the names of the three accused former faculty members.

Kinkaid also said abuse survivors were notified pending the release of the investigation results.

Here is the letter in full:

To Our Kinkaid Community,

In May of 2018, we announced the launch of a formal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by faculty members or staff toward students between the late 1960s and early 1990s. These efforts, led by a special committee of the Board of Trustees, began after we received a report of sexually inappropriate interactions between a faculty member and a student and how the School handled those allegations at the time. Today, we write to you to share the results of that investigation.

First and foremost, we want to thank the individuals who bravely came forward to report instances of misconduct and abuse they either experienced or witnessed. While expressing our heartfelt regret for the misconduct our investigators found, we also wish to extend our most sincere gratitude to the community for its support as we have worked through this process.

The Investigation Process:
To conduct this investigation, the Board (through its legal counsel) retained a nationally recognized expert in the field, T&M Protection Resources. The School provided the investigators with unrestricted access to school-affiliated individuals, files and other school resources.

Over the span of a comprehensive 15-month investigation, T&M conducted 58 interviews with alumni, current and former faculty, staff, administrators, trustees and others. Some of these individuals contacted T&M through a designated phone line or email address, while others were contacted by T&M proactively. T&M did not initiate contact with any former students who others identified in the investigation as survivors of sexual misconduct, out of respect for their privacy. Thus, firsthand reports of misconduct were limited to those who themselves chose to contact the investigators. T&M did, however, request an opportunity to speak with, and in fact interviewed, two of the three former school employees against whom credible allegations of sexual misconduct were made (the third being deceased). To make a "finding," the investigators determined whether, based on all of the information gathered, reviewed and applied, it was more likely than not that the events "found" to have occurred did occur.
Summary of Findings:
  • T&M found that between the late 1960s and early 1990s, three former faculty members committed acts of sexual misconduct toward students.
  • T&M found that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one faculty member engaged in sexual misconduct, including inappropriate touching of a sexual nature and other boundary crossing behavior, with eight students, all between the ages of 10 and 13.
  • T&M found that, between the late 1980s and early 1990s, one faculty member engaged in boundary crossing behaviors, sexual misconduct, including inappropriate touching of a sexual nature, an attempted sexual assault, as well as soliciting students to engage in sexual acts, with six students between the ages of 14 and 17.
  • T&M's investigation found that a third faculty member engaged in an inappropriate relationship, which included physical contact and a sexual interaction, with a 16 year-old student in the 1990s.

Although the School's May 2018 community letter referenced four former full-time faculty members who were a focus of the investigation, T&M ultimately did not learn sufficient information to make a finding with respect to one of those individuals.

T&M also found that the School's senior leadership at the time did not immediately terminate two of the three individuals after being made aware of an instance of misconduct toward a student. A summary of the School's actions at the time is below.
  • When misconduct by the first faculty member described above was first reported to them, the School's senior leadership implemented remedial steps short of termination. There was no finding by T&M of sexual misconduct by this faculty member following the implementation of these remedial steps.
  • The second faculty member was terminated immediately following a second report of misconduct.
  • The third faculty member was, in fact, terminated immediately after the faculty member's misconduct was first reported to the School's senior leadership in the 1990s.

The School has reported T&M's findings concerning each of the faculty members to the proper state and local authorities. We have made the decision not to disclose the names of the three former faculty members who the investigators found to have committed acts of sexual misconduct toward Kinkaid students. All survivors who participated in the investigation have been notified of the School's plan to issue a communication regarding the investigation's findings.

This behavior is simply not tolerated at Kinkaid today. We as a school community can and will do better to protect our students.

Kinkaid Today:
Notably, T&M did not receive any allegation of sexual misconduct involving any current faculty members or staff.
The safety and well-being of our students is and will remain our top priority. We are confident that the environment at Kinkaid today is one in which students can freely express concerns to faculty and administrators or other trusted adults, and in which those concerns will be heard and acted upon.

As part of our response to the initial concerns, over a year ago, we asked T&M to carefully review our current policies regarding appropriate relationships with students and the reporting of improper behavior. With T&M's assistance, we are ensuring that our policies continue to reflect best practices in this area, including a thorough series of updates to our student, faculty and staff handbooks that clarify reporting protocols for students and articulate guidelines for proper boundaries between students and adults on campus.

In each division of the School, students are informed (via age appropriate, grade-level meetings and/or divisional assemblies) that they can report any concerns to any adult at the School, including counseling psychologists who are available in each division. We emphasize to our students, and their parents whenever appropriate, that they should feel completely free to bring any academic or non-academic concerns to their academic division head, assistant division head or dean, depending on who may be the most comfortable point of first contact for them. The handbook provides both students and their parents additional means of reporting, should they feel more comfortable with another option. This will continue to be an area of focus and increased emphasis as we ensure the safety and empowerment of every child in our school.

Upholding Our Commitment to Safety Today:
Although T&M's formal investigation has concluded, T&M remains a resource should you wish to share any relevant information with them. T&M's investigators, Laura Kirschstein and Julie Freudenheim, can be contacted at KinkaidSchool@tmprotection.com or by calling 646-445-7544. Throughout the course of its investigation, T&M has upheld its commitment of treating those individuals who have come forward with the utmost respect and discretion; we are confident they will honor this promise into the future.

Feeling safe and secure at school is vital to a student's success. We are deeply disappointed by the School's failure at times in its past to provide a safe and secure environment, and we offer our most sincere apologies to those students who suffered as a result. We affirm our deep gratitude to the survivors and witnesses who came forward, and we pledge our continued commitment to students, parents, faculty and staff, and alumni to promote educational excellence, personal responsibility and a safe and respectful learning environment.

Sincerely,

The Kinkaid School Board of Trustees
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