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Randolph School in Huntsville releases details of sexual misconduct probe

It says the majority of allegations involved a former teacher who left in the 1990s

Posted: Apr 26, 2019 1:20 PM
Updated: Apr 26, 2019 6:18 PM

Randolph School, a private K-12 school in Huntsville, says it has obtained the results of an investigation into allegations from alumni who said they were subjected to sexual misconduct by a former faculty member.

Read the story detailing the first mention of the allegations here

Among other information, a letter sent Thursday by school officials said: “The investigation found that there have been no allegations of sexual misconduct involving any current employee of Randolph School. Moreover, there have been no allegations of sexual misconduct after May 1992 involving anyone employed by Randolph.”

It goes on to say the majority of allegations involved a former teacher who left in the 1990s.

The Headmaster says administrators at the Randolph School reached out to some 3,000 people during the course of their six-month investigation and interviewed about 50 people.

The school also hired a national law firm to help in the investigation. The letter says six people made reports about a former music teacher, Delbert Bailey, inappropriately touching students' bodies, undressing in front of a student, and even asking students to have sex with him.

No students ever reported the incidents to the school or their families during the time it happened. One student did reach out to an ex-administrator around 2010, who told a current administrator. There's no evidence that information ever reached the headmaster.

One survivor went public on Facebook in 2015, and an alum notified the school. That got the ball rolling. By 2018, more students had come forward.

The letter says five students have filed reports with Huntsville police. We asked if police and the District Attorney's office is investigating. We're waiting to hear back. The letter also states the school's investigator was never able to reach Bailey. The investigation uncovered sexual misconduct by four additional employees in the 70s and 80s. Two employees are dead, one denied anything happened, and the fourth couldn't be reached.

This letter states the school is reviewing its policies, and will take steps moving forward, like requiring more training and stronger background checks for anyone, even volunteers, who spend a lot of time around students, and to make private areas of the school more visible.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Randolph School community,

On October 31, 2018, we notified you that the School had received allegations from alumni who advised that during their time here, they were subjected to sexual misconduct by a former faculty member whose term of employment at Randolph ended in the early 1990s. We informed you that the School retained Suzanne Bogdan of Fisher & Phillips LLP to conduct a thorough review of the allegations and any other inappropriate interactions between employees and students at Randolph. Ms. Bogdan is a nationally-recognized expert in investigating and addressing sexual misconduct at educational institutions. Ms. Bogdan is also the Chair of the firm’s Education Practice Group. Marion Walker, one of Fisher & Phillips’ Alabama attorneys, assisted in the investigation and in providing advice to the School.

We reached out to almost 3,000 members of our extended community and encouraged anyone who had experienced sexual misconduct or who had information about inappropriate behavior to contact Ms. Bogdan. We asked Ms. Bogdan to conduct a thorough investigation, placing no limits on the time or scope of her investigation.

We begin this letter by expressing our sincere admiration and respect for the alumni who first contacted our school and for all of those who shared their painful experiences throughout the process of this investigation. At the same time, we respect the decisions of any former students who have chosen not to speak. We want you to know that the door remains open to you to come forward in the future.

On behalf of the School, we apologize to everyone who was affected by these events, for any past failures by the School, and for what the survivors have experienced. Randolph should have been a place of safety and security for all students.

The Investigative Process
Fisher & Phillips has now completed its investigation after interviewing 48 individuals, many of whom reached out to Ms. Bogdan to share their experiences or events that they observed. Consistent with industry practice, Ms. Bogdan did not reach out to individuals who were identified as possible victims of sexual misconduct, believing that such individuals are entitled to make their own decisions about whether to participate in the School’s investigation. Finally, Ms. Bogdan attempted but was unable to interview many other individuals who either could not be found or who chose not to participate.

The investigation found that there have been no allegations of sexual misconduct involving any current employee of Randolph School. Moreover, there have been no allegations of sexual misconduct after May 1992 involving anyone employed by Randolph.

For the purposes of this report, “sexual misconduct” refers to an adult’s intentional, unwanted, or offensive advances or touching of the private areas of a student’s body, up to and including sexual intercourse. “Boundary-crossing behavior” includes an adult’s inappropriate, excessive, or too-frequent hugging, rubbing, massaging, or grabbing of a student’s body or conversations or other actions with students that are sexual in nature or overly friendly with a sexual overtone.

The majority of the allegations of sexual misconduct revealed by the investigation involve a former music teacher of the School, Delbert Bailey. Six separate individuals reported sexual misconduct by Mr. Bailey that ranged from inappropriate touching in a private area of the body, to undressing in front of the student, to attempting to have the student engage in sexual behavior, to sexual intercourse. In some cases, the misconduct was a one-time incident. In others, the misconduct occurred repeatedly. The earliest reported incident was in the 1974-1975 timeframe, and the last reported incident was in May 1992. None of the survivors told anyone at the time about the misconduct or witnessed others being subjected to misconduct.

In addition to the sexual misconduct outlined above, many students and some former employees reported that throughout the entire period referenced above, Mr. Bailey regularly engaged in boundary-crossing behavior with students who were involved in choir, concert choir, ensemble, or theatre. Mr. Bailey would frequently hug students, rub their backs, massage their shoulders, and allow students to do the same to him. Some reported that Mr. Bailey’s behavior occurred openly in front of other students, during class and in public areas, and was often reciprocated. Mr. Bailey’s habit of hugging and touching students made some uncomfortable, but the behavior seemed normal to others because the group of students who were actively involved in music and/or theatre at Randolph were very close to each other and to Mr. Bailey.

Notably, there were many students who were involved in various aspects of Randolph’s music and theatre programs who never experienced, observed, or were aware of any sexual misconduct or boundary crossing activity, even though they spent a substantial amount of time with Mr. Bailey.

Although Ms. Bogdan attempted several times to contact Mr. Bailey and left several messages for him, she did not receive a response. Mr. Bailey left Randolph at the end of the 1992-1993 school year for unrelated reasons. We have confirmed that he is not presently working around children.

The investigation also resulted in allegations of sexual misconduct by four additional former employees of Randolph School. These allegations, which were reported to have occurred between 1972 and 1982, were not corroborated by our investigation. They range from an alleged sexual relationship, to forcible touching, to sexual suggestions, to one person’s alleged facilitation of Mr. Bailey’s behavior. Two of the individuals against whom these actions are alleged are deceased. Of the other two individuals, our investigator reached one, who denied the allegations. Despite repeated attempts, the investigator was unable to reach the other person. We have confirmed that neither is presently working around children.

The Board and administration have decided to withhold these four individuals’ names, incident dates, and additional details from this letter for several reasons, including the protection of the privacy of the survivors. Some of those who shared information during the investigation asked for assurance that we would protect their anonymity. We are concerned that identifying the details of the reported incidents might inadvertently result in the disclosure of one or more survivors’ identities. We ask for your understanding in respecting their privacy and dignity. We also have decided to withhold details of these reported incidents to protect the privacy of the alleged offenders given that our investigation could not corroborate the accusations against them.

The investigation revealed that none of the survivors reported an incident of sexual misconduct to the School around the time it occurred. In addition, there is no indication that any member of the administration or faculty was aware of sexual misconduct at the time it was occurring. One faculty member recalls mentioning to an administrator in the 1973 timeframe that Mr. Bailey’s interactions with some students made her feel uncomfortable. The administrator does not recall this report.

Some adults and some former students from the time period in which the misconduct occurred noted that the standards regarding interactions between adults and students were different 30-40 years ago, making it difficult for them to say whether Mr. Bailey’s closeness with students was inappropriate at that time. We know from the current national conversation about sexual misconduct that not all students, survivors, or observers in the past were in a position to recognize behaviors that may have been inappropriate or to understand how to prevent or report them. There is much greater awareness today of expectations regarding appropriate adult-student interactions, as well as how to report concerns about potential misconduct.

Several current and former employees confirmed that the School had a child-protection policy and trained employees to report child abuse during the time period involved. The investigation revealed two occasions when the administration addressed inappropriate behavior that came to its attention. According to one witness, a teacher was terminated in the 1989 timeframe for boundary-crossing activity with a student. The School does not have records to corroborate this report. In addition, an administrator reported that in the 1978 timeframe, she was called in to the then-Head’s office to assist in investigating a report from a father that a coach had patted a student with too much familiarity. After the School initiated an investigation, the father called back to withdraw the complaint, advising that the student recanted the allegation.

The investigation revealed that one survivor told two different individuals associated with the School that the survivor was the victim of sexual misconduct by a Randolph teacher in the early 1980s. In the 2010-2013 timeframe, the survivor made a brief statement to a non-supervisory employee of the School about the misconduct. The investigation was unable to corroborate that anyone in administration learned of the report. In the 2010-2011 timeframe, the same survivor sent an email to a former administrator about the sexual misconduct. This former administrator communicated the information to a current administrator. Although the current administrator believes she reported the information to the then-Head of School, the investigator was unable to confirm the report to the then-Head.

Finally, the survivor posted a comment about the sexual misconduct on Facebook in June 2015. An alert alum notified the current Head of School, who immediately reached out to the survivor to discuss the issues and offer support. The Head and survivor had a series of open and detailed conversations. Based on the survivor’s statements, the Head conducted a confidential investigation but was unable to obtain corroborating information. The Head believed from their conversations and the survivor’s additional Facebook posts that the survivor was satisfied with the School’s handling of the matter at the time.

In the fall of 2018, the Head of School learned that several other students may have been subjected to sexual misconduct involving Mr. Bailey. Only then did the School realize it was not dealing with an isolated situation and immediately initiated this investigation. We acknowledge past breakdowns in communication and regret missing earlier opportunities to uncover the full extent of past misconduct.

During the pendency of this investigation, five of the survivors filed police reports with the Huntsville Police Department. The School has been aware of law enforcement’s involvement, has cooperated with its investigation, and will continue to do so. As a mandated reporter under state law, the School will fulfill all of its reporting responsibilities to government agencies. In addition, we will communicate the findings of the investigation to known employers of Mr. Bailey where his employment has involved work with children.

For the Survivors of Misconduct at Randolph School
Randolph School deeply regrets that any student experienced sexual misconduct by a School employee. On behalf of the School, we apologize to you. You did not receive the protection you deserved. We also apologize to any student who was abused by a School employee and who has chosen to remain silent. If you decide to come forward later, our door is open. In addition, you may contact Investigator Hemphill of the Huntsville Police Department (256-327-3808) to participate in their investigation.

The School has established a process with an outside third-party administrator to facilitate and pay for counseling for any survivor of sexual misconduct at Randolph School who requests it and to reimburse such individuals for any past counseling. Requests may be directed either to Jay Rainey, Head of School (jrainey@randolphschool.net) or to Suzanne Bogdan (sbogdan@fisherphillips.com). Your identity will remain confidential from others at the School. We will also continue to engage and work with survivors to the extent that they are interested in doing so to find ways to support their recovery.

Our School Today
The safety of the children in our care remains our highest priority at Randolph. We are saddened by these revelations from our past. The School is fully committed to taking steps to prevent such abuses from occurring again. We recognize that a culture of safety begins with the School’s policies, procedures, training, and practices, including training to recognize child abuse or boundary-crossing behavior and to report the information promptly, even if the information is first revealed many years later. Although the School has long published and trained in accordance with child abuse reporting policies and other safety precautions, its Student Protection Committee, whose work has proceeded in parallel with the investigation, has made additional recommendations. The School has already implemented or is in the process of implementing the following measures to strengthen its approach to student protection:

The School is reviewing all policies and procedures thoroughly and will update them periodically so that appropriate safety policies are in place to prevent, or to require immediate reporting of, sexual misconduct. To ensure that the policies receive the appropriate level of attention and have the broadest reach, the Committee recommended creating a separate document titled Child Protection Policies which will be distributed to all employees, volunteers, coaches, and chaperones, and which will include the following important sections: Child Abuse Policy and Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse; Student-Adult Interactions and Boundaries; Harassment; Chaperones for Overnight Events; and Volunteers.

The Committee recommended specific training for overnight chaperones and expanded training on harassment and boundary-crossing behavior for substitutes, clinicians, and chaperones.

Although the School has long required criminal background checks for employees, the Committee has made several recommendations to strengthen the background check process for employees, community coaches, and employees of contractors, including increased frequency of background checks.

The School will require training and conduct background checks for volunteers who have regular or sustained involvement with students.

The Committee recommended that the administration review all School facilities to identify areas that could facilitate privacy with students and take precautionary steps to create more visibility or to make such areas off limits.

Our Promise
In closing, we reiterate our admiration and gratitude to those who contributed to the investigation. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our current community, our alumni, and our dedicated employees who stood by us and cooperated fully in this process. Our promise to the entire Randolph community is that we will continue to learn from our past, support survivors, and endeavor to provide the safest and most secure learning environment possible for the children in our care.

Sincerely,

Jay Rainey, Head of School

Brian Pollock, Chair of the Board

* If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, you can call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. For information and resources from RAINN, the country’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, click HERE

* To contact Crisis Services of North Alabama, call 256-716-4052.

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