Dear Pingry Community:
We are writing this letter to introduce ourselves (the “Pingry Survivors”) to you – former students, their parents, and all other people who care about The Pingry School (“the Pingry Community”).
Pingry Survivors is currently a group of twelve men who were sexually victimized while we were children at the Pingry School (and its predecessor, the Short Hills Country Day School) during the 1970s. Some of the Pingry Survivors graduated from the school; others left shortly after the abuse. We are spread across the continent and we span the socio-economic spectrum. Some are successful professionals; others have struggled in careers. Some have happy families; others have shattered relationships. Some are healthy and vibrant by outward appearance, but all share this common bond: we have suffered greatly as a result of sexual abuse inflicted upon us while we were children at The Pingry School.
We care about The Pingry School. We are also united in our concern that what we suffered must not be repeated. These concerns compel us to speak up about what we suffered and to draw out the truth from the greater Pingry Community about what was known by the School, when it was known, and what was done about it.
To this end, several of our members commissioned an investigation by Crew Janci LLP, a law firm experienced in advocating for victims of child sexual abuse. Our investigation began approximately one year ago. Our investigation has revealed evidence that some of those in positions of authority at Pingry were aware at the time that children were being sexually abused. Sadly, our investigation is uncovering what appears to be a pervasive problem of child sexual abuse at The Pingry School during the 1970s, stretching into Pingry’s affiliated Scout Troop 64 and Camp Waganaki. Our investigation also indicates a culture of silence and denial amongst The Pingry School staff and administration during that time.
On March 28, 2016, the current Pingry School leadership sent a letter to Pingry Alumni announcing that they “recently learned . . . that students were sexually abused by Thad Alton” during the 1970s. Although we have evidence that past Pingry School leaders were aware about this issue, we understand that this may be new information for some current Pingry School leaders. We acknowledge that the current Pingry leadership has a difficult task – to clean up a “mess” that they did not personally create. Yet, part of leadership is responding to unforeseen challenges. We appreciate the recent expressions of sorrow from Pingry Headmaster Nathaniel Conard and Board Chair Jeffrey Edwards. We are hopeful about their public commitment to do everything possible to help and support victims.
In the March 28th letter, the current Pingry School leadership also announced that it would be commencing its own investigation. We have instructed our advocates at the law firm of Crew Janci LLP to continue our year-long independent investigation. We have also instructed our advocates to explore a way to work collaboratively with the School’s investigators to share information in an appropriate manner (that respects the privacy of victims and witnesses).
We are hopeful that we can find a way to work collaboratively with the current Pingry School leadership to achieve the following goals:
- For the Pingry Community to learn the whole truth about the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse at the Pingry School – including a complete and accurate disclosure about the School’s response at the time of the abuse (and since);
- For The Pingry School to hear, understand, and acknowledge the suffering of each victim and to make meaningful amends; and
- For The Pingry School to dedicate itself to ensuring that this history can never be repeated (including an independent review of policies, practices, and culture, as well as implementation of meaningful changes).
Ultimately, we hope that we and the current Pingry School leadership – with the support of the greater Pingry Community – can find a path forward that is collaborative and allows for true healing and reconciliation. We have not filed a lawsuit. Instead, we are making every effort to avoid litigation. To that end, we have instructed our attorneys to explore The Pingry School’s willingness to engage in a collaborative resolution process. We hope that such an agreement can be reached.
This is a defining moment in The Pingry School’s history – a moment that will shape the School’s future. The past cannot be undone, but The Pingry School’s response now will serve as a testament to Pingry’s current values. We are hopeful that the current Pingry School leadership will choose a path forward that affirms the School’s commitment to transparency, social responsibility, and the dignity owed to each individual.
We appreciate the support we have already received from members of the Pingry Community. Many have reached out to us with words of encouragement and solidarity. Others have courageously shared information important to our investigation. All of this is appreciated.
If you have information that would be helpful to our investigation, please contact our attorneys at: http://crewjanci.com/contact-us. If you are aware of others who might benefit from reading this letter, please consider sharing our website: www.pingrysurvivors.org or our Facebook page.
Together, with your support, we can help ensure that The Pingry School provides not only the best education, but also the safest and healthiest community for our children. “Maxima reverentia pueris debetur” (“Greatest respect is due students”).
The Pingry Survivors