The following is an open letter to Janet Durgin in response to her recent statements in the Press Democrat by founding Athena Project member, Emma McAleavy.
This week, the Press Democrat reported that you thought you had addressed my report in 2007 with “discipline and counseling” for Marco and that after your retirement “a group of alumni approached the school directly with names and additional information, at which point the school took appropriate action and the employee was terminated.”
The information I brought to Tucker in August of 2020 was the same information I reported in 2007, again in 2016, and again in 2018. And I shared the same list of potential victims that I had shared the last three times I reported this matter.
Furthermore, I was not the only student to report concerns about Marco’s behavior to school officials during your tenure. There was a student before me who brought complaints to you about Marco’s behavior. And two male alumni brought concerns to the school in 2019.
In conversations with me and with other alumni, you have always maintained that you could not act upon student and alumni concerns about Marco’s behavior because you didn’t have enough evidence. You have referred to our complaints as “rumors.” But here’s the thing, Janet: you chose not to investigate our allegations or report them to the authorities so they could do a proper investigation. You employed a kind of circular logic. You said you could not act because you did not have evidence, and at the same time you refused to seek the evidence that might allow you to act.
You and Tucker were both given the same information. Tucker simply made a different choice— the right choice. Where you chose to give Marco the benefit of the doubt, Tucker chose to hire a professional to do an investigation.
Now, thanks to the work of Oppenheimer Investigations Group, the Press Democrat, and The Athena Project, we do have more information. We know that the counseling Marco received (which, by the way, was never an appropriate response to my complaints) was ineffective. We know that Marco went on to harm many more students under your watch. And we know that Marco was allowed to be alone with female students on numerous occasions after I made my complaints and that apparently no attempts were made to monitor his behavior.
When we met to discuss my concerns about Marco in the Summer of 2016, you told me that you thought his behavior was unconscious and that he had learned a lesson. I cannot begin to tell you how painful it was to be told that my experience of harassment and grooming was a learning opportunity for Marco.
I told you I disagreed with your assessment of the situation. I said I believed his behavior was intentional and strategic and that he had harmed other students too. There were tears in your eyes as you told me how sorry you were for what I had experienced. But, you maintained, the problem was solved and it was too late to make a different decision. You were wrong on both counts.
I will never understand why you didn’t believe me. All I know is that had you believed me, Clio, Savannah, Morgan, and Miranda never would have been harmed by Marco at Sonoma Academy.
You may not remember this, but I was there the day Sonoma Academy was born. I stood on the east lawn at The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and watched you preside over the first-ever Sonoma Academy convocation. I was eleven years old, dreaming of someday attending this special school. At the time, I would have been gratified to think you might one day be proud of me.
Today, your statement in the Press Democrat— “I am proud of these young women who are now demanding that their painful stories be heard”—is offensive.
Should you wish to make amends for the harm you have caused, you can begin with a genuine apology for failing to believe me and for failing to protect students from Marco. And you can use whatever influence you have with the current Board of Trustees to convince them to acknowledge not only Marco’s misconduct but Sonoma Academy’s failure to report his conduct to the proper authorities when you and others had more than a reasonable basis for suspecting he was engaging in inappropriate behavior. Anything short of that is meaningless.
Emma McAleavy, Class of 2008