What does the new Sonoma Academy teacher misconduct investigation involve? Past cases provide clues



Its investigative teams are led by former sex crime prosecutors, according to the company’s website.

Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor is another company with an array of high-profile cases in the same field.

In 2017, when The New York Times reported on the commercial boom in companies dealing with cases of sexual abuse in schools, Cozen O’Connor had worked with more than 400 schools, camps and institutions of higher education on investigations, including policy development and legal advice.

Many of Debevoise and Plimpton’s school clients are based in New York. He produced surveys for Rockefeller University and Ramaz School in New York, both in 2019, as well as for KIPP NYC, a network of public charter schools.

Schools, investigators turn to students

Graduates from schools at the center of these scandals have at times expressed unease over the relationship between campuses and their contract investigators.

Institutions under investigation are footing the bill, after all. How freely do these investigators operate? And who decides where to draw the limit of investigators’ scope?

“There are a lot of questions about what’s really going to come out of this,” said Clio Wilde, 2011 Sonoma Academy graduate. “The first survey was presented as thorough and it was very, very far from being. We hope it will be different.

In the June 19 message, Foehl and Nosler said that the responsibility of Hogan and his team “is to be complete and impartial, free from influence or interference from the oversight committee, board of directors or faculty, staff or administration of the Sonoma Academy “.

Reports and summaries released by schools show that investigators in such cases often follow a similar pattern, starting with interviews with current and former students, staff, and faculty. Where appropriate, they review evidence such as yearbooks, policies, and letters and emails sent to school staff about abuse that students have witnessed or experienced.

Lawyers are, however, limited in their ability to compel anyone to speak. They lack subpoena power and sometimes rely on the people contacting them, especially if the school cannot provide up-to-date contact details for a graduate.

Survivors and perpetrators may be excluded from final reports due to these shortcomings.

Foehl and Nosler told the Sonoma Academy community that the investigation “depends on the willingness of those with fault to come forward to share their stories.”

The campus said anyone willing to speak should contact Debevoise and Plimpton via email at [email protected]

“We encourage you to provide investigators with any information about Morrone’s misconduct (or that of any past or past Sonoma Academy employee or volunteer), including your experience in reporting this misconduct to school officials,” indicates the message.

“People need help right now”

Other Sonoma Academy graduates and students have started to come forward since the first seven women shared their stories in public. Many of them, for now, choose to speak with other graduates first.

Their main forum is The Athena Project, an effort launched by the main group of seven graduates. Through email and Instagram, more and more alumni are speaking out with their own stories, according to the women.

Project managers have heard from students of all classes since the Sonoma Academy premiered in 2004, Vacha and Wilde said.

“It has become a responsibility for me to show up for people in times of complete crisis,” Wilde said. “When they relive a deeply internalized complex trauma and try to understand what their responsibility is and what they feel they need to do about it.”

The seven women are together involved in confidential mediation discussions with the school, in part aimed at obtaining restitution and therapy for the students and graduates concerned.

“People need help right now,” Wilde said. “One thing we heard from so many people is that they felt isolated in their own experience and carried the brunt of it for over a decade, for some.”

“The time has come,” she said. “It is high time that the support was provided. “

The survey, on the other hand, could stimulate the kind of public dialogue women have sought for years about reform and accountability at Sonoma Academy.

At this point, some of their fellow graduates aren’t hoping their stories will make a difference, Wilde said.

“(This is) why I think a lot of people chose to talk to us directly first,” she said.

“There is this very basic fundamental understanding of me too. I understand what happened because something similar happened to me.

You can reach Editor-in-Chief Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or [email protected] On Twitter @ka_tornay.



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