FAQ: Owen Labrie Trial

Questions and answers concerning the Labrie trial
1. What is your reaction to the decision?
This trial has been deeply painful for all of us in the St. Paul’s community, but especially for the young woman who has suffered through this nightmare. From the beginning – some 15 months ago – to the conclusion of the trial, she and her family have shown remarkable moral courage and strength. Her resolve and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of the truth have been inspiring to us and to many outside our School community. We can only hope that time will bring some measure of healing and comfort to both her and her family.
2. How would you address the former students and their families?
No parent ever wants to see their child suffering. This situation and the details presented in court were deeply troubling to both families, as well as to the entire St. Paul’s School Community. Our hope is that time will bring some measure of healing to all involved.
3. What do you have to say about the allegations about the School’s culture?
The allegations about St. Paul’s and our culture were not – and are not – emblematic of our School or our values, our rules, or our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff. Those claims just simply aren’t true.
4. Was St. Paul’s aware of the “senior salute?”
The Rector first heard about “senior salute” in the spring of 2013. It is not a decades-old “tradition” as some have alleged. As you have learned throughout the trial, the phrase “senior salute” described a wide range of behaviors related to spending time with other students – none of these behaviors was ever understood to include any type of “game” of sexual conquest. We revised the Student Handbook to state more explicitly that participation in that type of activity would be grounds for expulsion, as would any unauthorized possession of School keys or swipe cards.
5. Did the School allow this to happen?
The School has never allowed, condoned or supported inappropriate behavior. We have well communicated rules, disciplinary responses, trainings, counseling programs, and procedures to ensure that all members of our community understand the expectations for behavior and conduct, and the consequences for their actions when School expectations are breached. Conduct that is damaging to the fabric of our community and inconsistent with our values has never been – and will not be – tolerated.
6. What is the School doing to prevent sexual assault?
In June of 2014, we pledged that we would use the issues raised by this case to learn more about ourselves and to make our School better. We began more than a year ago by:
  • conducting a comprehensive review of the safety of our School environment and of our reporting procedures to ensure they continue to meet the highest standards,
  • implementing policy changes, and enhancing programming in several key areas to further support our students in making St. Paul’s the healthiest residential learning environment possible,
  • inviting independent experts and researchers to our campus to advise us on the best ways to strengthen the trust, respect, and understanding that is so critical for a tight-knit, fully residential community like ours) and,
  • developing and implementing, based on advice and guidance from a team public health professionals, additional programming to strengthen our community through enhanced education and prevention efforts in such areas as harassment, bullying, gender-based violence, and substance abuse.
In the coming year, we will build on the work we’ve begun with initiatives that include:
  • strengthening our Living in Community curriculum, which underscores the School’s core values to be kind and live honorably,
  • expanding the visiting expert speakers program to heighten awareness, build skills, and broaden perspectives among all members of the School community,
  • developing new bystander intervention training for all students and heads of house, and
  • conducting a review of School policies and practices surrounding student conduct and discipline.
Our expectation is that these efforts will allow our faculty, staff, administration, and students to continue to be engaged in critical introspection with an eye to improving how we live together.
7. How has the reputation of St. Paul’s been affected?
St. Paul’s is one of the best educational institutions in the country. Our mission remains the same as it was when we were founded 159 years ago – to teach our students our core values – that they live honorably, respectfully, and never forget to be kind – and that they learn and grow in ways that lead to productive and respectful relationships throughout their entire lives.
8. Do you think St. Paul’s did what it could to protect its students?
Let’s be clear, we do not ever condone sexual assault or any conduct that is at odds with our code of conduct, morals and values. We have the fullest commitment to doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our students and the school community. That was true prior to this incident, and remains true today.
9. What are you doing as a school to educate students and the School community about issues such as sexuality, unacceptable behavior, etc.? What’s in place to safeguard St. Paul’s from this ever happening again?
St. Paul’s continuously examines how to improve the educational experience for our students – their safety and health has always been at the center of our mission as a school. We regularly communicate with and educate our students about proper and safe behavior and such sensitive issues as sexuality. We are also committed to providing resources and support to them.
As a school community, we are most concerned with providing a safe and healthy environment for our students. We have policies in place to ensure that they are safe, secure and treated equitably. We do our utmost to enforce these policies, and to guide our students concerning challenging topics like sexuality, intimacy and personal responsibility. We will continue to engage our students in thoughtful dialogue and educational sessions to address challenging and personal topics as we strive for continuous improvement.
10. Do the allegations that surfaced accurately represent St. Paul’s?
School culture must not be equated with the behavior of one, or even several, individuals within the community. The allegations about St. Paul’s and our culture were not – and are not – emblematic of our School or our values, our rules, or our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff. Those claims just simply aren’t true.
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