21 July 2014 Update
The News and Observer carried a story on yesterday's front page about the process through which CFS has tried to address the incidents of sexual abuse in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The article--for which reporter Jane Stancill interviewed Principal Mike Hanas, Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning Renee Prillaman, and Board Clerk Marsha Green--has also run in the Chapel Hill News and the Durham News.
11 June 2014
Dear Members of the CFS Community,
We are writing today to share some difficult news from our past. Several students who attended Carolina Friends School between 1969 and 1975 have told us that a former principal sexually abused them during their lower and middle school years. One of those students has also shared sexual abuse by a former Middle School teacher in the spring of 1976.
This news is heartbreaking.
We are humbled by the strength of our former students who had the courage to share their experiences with us and we appreciate their support of our efforts moving forward. We have personally expressed our deepest apologies to each of these individuals on behalf of the school community. It is our hope that our public acknowledgement of the harm each has suffered may provide some small measure of healing. It is also our hope that the message of this letter reaches other members of our community who may have been affected so that all know that we care, that we are here, and that we will listen.
Although these events occurred four decades ago, our commitment to integrity and truth compels us to share this information with all members of the CFS community, including our staff, parents, alumni, and friends. We are keenly aware that the passage of time has not diminished the impact of these events on the affected students.
In the fall of 2012, in response to the information shared by our former students, we hired two of the nation’s leading experts on child abuse and sexual misconduct to conduct an independent review and help guide us toward an appropriate response. Throughout this process, we have been committed to finding the truth and discerning what the School can do today. Our highest priority is helping our former students heal from any abuse that occurred.
Interviews were conducted with a number of former students, parents, former and current staff, and Board members. Five former students shared their accounts of inappropriate touching by former principal Harold Jernigan. One of those five also shared an account of inappropriate touching by Charles William (Bill) Butcher. As we worked to gather the facts, we reached out to both former staff members. We received no response from Harold Jernigan despite reaching out to him directly and through his family. We did have the opportunity to speak with Bill Butcher, who immediately said that he did not wish to deny or contradict the allegations and expressed remorse for the anguish and harm he had caused. He has agreed to participate in a reconciliation process, if sought by the former student.
The information we gathered was shared with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney, as well as the Orange County Department of Social Services. Lt. Troy Comar and Lt. Tina Sykes, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, met with us and spoke with the interested former students to review the conduct through the lens of law enforcement. While law enforcement has shared that the acts in question may be beyond the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, their review remains open. We will continue to cooperate with and support law enforcement in any continued investigation.
Based on the nature of these allegations, there may be more affected former students. Anyone who has relevant information is encouraged to contact:
- Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Tina Sykes by phone at 919.644.3050 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mike Hanas at 919.383.6602 or email@example.com; or
- The School’s dedicated hotline at 919.384.1872, where you may leave a confidential message and have your call returned within 24 hours.
At CFS, our first responsibility is the well-being of our students – past, current, and future. We are fiercely determined to learn from this experience and will continue to do everything in our power to protect our children. Even before this information came to light, we had engaged in an ongoing, comprehensive review of our existing policies and practices and have since taken a number of additional steps to strengthen the protection of our current and future students. Those steps include enhanced protocols for background checks, ongoing training and educational programs, protective policies to ensure appropriate oversight of adult-student interactions, and guidelines to encourage and support professional boundaries and relationships between adults and children.
It is natural for this type of news – regardless of how long ago the events happened – to raise concerns and stir strong emotions. A licensed psychologist is available to provide confidential assistance through our hotline (919.384.1872). You may also share any concerns with Mike at 919.383.6602 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, we have attached a brief Q&A that provides additional information.
At CFS, we teach our children that it is possible to change the world. Those former students and alumni who shared their experiences with us live that value. They have created the opportunity for communal healing and reconciliation. In doing so, they have made our world better by allowing us to both right a past harm and to improve our care of students going forward.
Mike Hanas Marsha Green
Principal Clerk, on behalf of the Board of Trustees
Questions & Answers:
What is the School currently doing to protect our students?
We take care to hire people with integrity, love of children, knowledge about appropriate boundaries, and a passion to teach our children through their interactions and our curriculum how healthy and respectful relationships can flourish.
The School has undertaken an ongoing, comprehensive review of our policies and practices with respect to the protection of our students. Some highlights of our efforts include:
- All current and new staff, coaches, substitutes, tutors, summer employees, and parent volunteers receive background checks. Our review includes multi-state criminal records checks, multi-state sex offender registry checks, and motor vehicle records checks, when applicable. Additionally, we employ continuous monitoring of criminal and motor vehicle records for any new activity.
- All staff members have received training through Stewards of Children: Darkness to Light, which has better prepared us to respond to any concerns of abuse or neglect. This training is required of any new staff members who join CFS and is regularly updated for all continuing employees.
- All of our children receive age-appropriate instruction in personal safety, human sexuality, and responsible decision making as part of our curriculum, including the Lower School “Safe Touch” child sexual abuse prevention program, the required Middle School Human Sexuality course, and the required Upper School Adolescent Health Issues course.
- Policies have been in place for overnight activities and driving activities. We will continue to update such policies in ways that support our students, staff members, and parents in their efforts to build strong and appropriate professional working relationships.
Where can I find the School’s policies?
You can find additional information in our Handbook (especially the Safety section) and in respective unit handbooks.
What type of support services are available?
A number of support services are available to members of the community who are impacted by this communication. Those resources are contained in the Community Resourcesdocument.
How should I talk to my children about this?
Please see the Resources for Parents document for age-appropriate information to help you talk about these concepts with your children.
Why did the School choose to begin an investigation in 2012?
In the fall of 2012, in the online context, several alumni connected to discuss their shared experiences of sexual abuse by Harold Jernigan, and asked what the School today might do. Principal Mike Hanas immediately brought this information to the Board of Trustees. The online discussion raised many questions for us. Key among them: how extensive was the abuse, and what can we do now in response? We were concerned about the pervasive nature of the abuse, the long-term impacts on our former students, and whether there were others who may have been harmed. We decided to bring in outside experts to lead an independent investigation and to consult with law enforcement agencies regarding potential criminal prosecution.
What was the nature of the abuse?
Five former students shared their accounts of inappropriate touching by Harold Jernigan. Those accounts contained independent, yet consistent and corroborated details of an extensive pattern of grooming behavior of young students. This facilitated inappropriate touching in the Principal’s office. One of those five also shared an account of inappropriate touching by Bill Butcher.
Why has the School chosen to share this news with the entire community?
Early in this process, the Board reached a consensus about its intent to have full, broad, and open communication, reaching and tending to all affected with sensitivity and respect in keeping with the values of CFS. Given our values, keeping this matter as quiet, private, or hidden was not an option. To do so would suggest that our former students, or the School, had something to hide. By remaining silent, we reinforce a pernicious culture of silence regarding child sexual abuse and we foreclose the opportunity for others who may be harmed to pursue their own healing. For many abused children, knowing that they are not alone can be healing. Our commitment to the pursuit of truth and the care of those harmed compels us to shine the light on what we know, and in doing so, to hold those harmed in the light. We have worked in concert with law enforcement officials during their criminal investigation and have followed their counsel. We share this news with our staff, alumni, and parents now with the full support of Orange County law enforcement.
Who are the experts that conducted the investigation?
Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez of Pepper Hamilton LLP led our investigation and interviewed the former students who reported the abuse. Gina and Leslie are Philadelphia-based attorneys who are nationally recognized experts in child abuse, sexual misconduct, and appropriate institutional responses. They are former child abuse prosecutors and educators who have devoted their careers to preventing and responding to child abuse, sexual violence and interpersonal violence.
Might students in other schools have been subject to such behavior by either of the two former CFS staff members?
We have been in touch with the two schools (both Quaker) where we know Harold Jernigan and Bill Butcher were also associated. We have kept the heads of those institutions informed throughout our process so they could respond in their own communities as appropriate. We have also shared this information with the Friends communities who may be interested in this information.
Are Harold Jernigan and Bill Butcher facing criminal charges?
Law enforcement has indicated that the North Carolina statute of limitations may preclude criminal prosecution for the conduct that has been reported. Law enforcement has also indicated that given the nature and timing of the conduct, it likely involves misdemeanor offenses given the statutes in effect in the early to mid-70s. There is no statute of limitations in North Carolina for felony conduct. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has not filed any charges against Harold Jernigan and Bill Butcher at this point in time, but we expect their review to remain open, and we cannot foreclose the disclosure by others of additional behaviors that may be within the statute of limitations.
Are you continuing to investigate these allegations?
As thorough as our efforts have been, we believe it is possible that individuals may come forward with additional information. We will continue to follow the facts. If you have any information, we encourage you to contact:
Principal Mike Hanas
Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Tina Sykes
CFS Confidential Hotline
How should we respond if the media approach us about this situation?
You and your child should not feel pressured to speak to the media about this issue. Mike Hanas will speak on behalf of CFS and we encourage you to direct any media inquiries to him at 919.383.6602 or email@example.com.
Our older students, in particular, may be asked about the events in question by the media (and certainly by non-CFS community members). It's even possible that a reporter would reach out via Facebook or other social media to a CFS Upper Schooler. In such a situation please ask your children to alert you. We encourage community members to remain courteous, but also to avoid speculation and to direct any inquiries to Mike Hanas.
Who is receiving this communication?
The letter, Q&A and resource pages are being sent electronically to every former student, alumni, current and former parent, current and former staff member, and current and former trustee for whom we have email addresses.
We have very limited contact information for many of our grandparents. Parents may choose, for example, to share this communication at their discretion with their students’ grandparents.