Special Committee Report

In the fall of 2020, the Thacher Board of Trustees convened a special committee in response to allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment involving Thacher alumni, current students, faculty, and staff. That committee in turn hired the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson (MTO) to conduct an independent and impartial investigation. The findings of that investigation and related documents are included on this page for your review. 

A Message from The Thacher School Board of Trustees

July 29, 2021

Dear Thacher Community,
 
This is an important moment in Thacher’s history, one that we hope evokes both deep sorrow over the pain suffered by the most vulnerable members of our community and confidence for our future. It is only by holding ourselves accountable for the past that we can begin to heal and instill confidence that Thacher is focused on the safety and well-being of its students today and in the years to come.
 
The investigative report prepared by Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP (“MTO”), and new evidence MTO has received since the report, demonstrate that we should have done more to address reports of suspected abuse. This includes identifying predatory grooming behavior, promptly intervening when abuse was occurring, making appropriate reports to authorities, and supporting students and alumni who came forward. These failures were a betrayal of our most fundamental values. The Board, in a meeting held last night, determined that there must be accountability on the part of those leaders who failed to act. The Board must also bear responsibility for a failure to exercise sufficient oversight. We are profoundly sorry for the harm caused. 
 
To demonstrate our commitment to accountability, the Board and School leadership have taken a number of actions in response to the report. The list shared below includes actions already underway prior to the report’s release, steps taken in recent weeks, and those adopted by the Board last night:
 
  • We have made the appropriate reports to law enforcement and to any known subsequent employers of perpetrators named in the MTO report, and we will continue to comply fully with all reporting requirements.
  • We are actively cooperating with the Ventura County’s Sheriff’s Department and other authorities and will continue to do so.
  • We are banning the perpetrators of sexual misconduct identified in MTO’s report from campus.
  • Additionally, we have clarified that Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck has the authority to ban any other adults from campus whom she reasonably concludes pose a potential safety risk to the community at this time or in the future.
  • Where applicable, we are also stripping the perpetrators of sexual misconduct identified in MTO’s report of any public recognition at Thacher, including removing former Head of School Bill Wyman’s name from the hiking trail currently named for him.
  • We are removing the Mulligan name from the campus dining hall and athletic field steps. The Board has taken this action due to the occasions on which former Head of School Michael Mulligan failed to appropriately demonstrate leadership and act when informed of concerns about sexual misconduct.
  • We are establishing a standing Board Committee on Student Safety and Well-being. This committee will provide concentrated Board-level proactive attention, oversight and leadership and will work with the Administration to assure that our students are safe, including from sexual misconduct, and are in a physically and mentally healthy environment. This committee’s responsibilities will include assuring the timely execution of the Corrective Actions previously committed to by the Board, which we encourage our community to review, and the creation of an ongoing sexual misconduct prevention and response education and training program for Trustees.
  • We have additionally committed as a Board to completing training on the survivor experience as well as boundary training by October 31st.
  • We have directed MTO to continue to receive and investigate reports of sexual misconduct as well as failures to respond appropriately at least through September 30, 2021. MTO will also prepare a report that will be shared with the community as soon as it is completed.
  • At the request of Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck, the Board has asked MTO to investigate her awareness of, and response to, sexual misconduct that occurred during her ongoing tenure as a Thacher employee. 
  • We have directed the Administration to create a new task force, as detailed in the Corrective Actions, to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct at Thacher and keep the Board’s Student Safety and Well-being Committee informed on a regular basis.
  • We remain committed to conducting a review, led by the Governance Committee, to assess and improve our governance. The Board will hold facilitated offsite meetings in the coming school year to advance this process.
  • We will retain an independent, highly qualified expert to undertake a comprehensive review of Thacher’s sexual misconduct education and response mechanisms, including existing policies, protocols, and trainings as well as how they function in practice.
 
With regard to the investigation itself, the Board would like to reiterate that it was conducted both independently and impartially. We retained outside independent investigative counsel at MTO to ensure that outcome. While we are aware some alumni feel that the Board should have retained the power to agree or disagree with—and to publish or not publish—one or more of MTO’s findings, if the Board had reserved the right to make those subjective decisions, it would have negated the credibility and impartiality of the report in the eyes of many alumni and to the larger community. Since receiving the report and prior to making the decisions announced in this letter, the Board confirmed that the report was thoroughly investigated, well-supported, and unbiased. The Board stands in support of the report and its findings. 
 
The removal of the Mulligan name from the dining hall and athletic fields’ steps as outlined above is not intended to—and will not—negate the many positive aspects of the Mulligans’ individual legacies. Indeed, these will continue to exist in the positive influence each had on countless students’ lives. Their devotion and positive contributions during their time at Thacher are not forgotten. However, the high honor associated with a name on a building is fundamentally inconsistent with the gravity and serious consequences of Michael Mulligan’s failure to protect Thacher students from harm.
 
The Board’s decision to no longer publicly honor them in this manner was a carefully considered one. We deliberated over the course of several meetings and acted only after a thorough review of all of the information before us. The vote on this decision at last night’s meeting was unanimous. By taking this action, we stay true to the values Thacher aspires to as a school and as a community. We teach our students to face the mistakes they make and deal with the consequences. If we do not hold ourselves, as leaders, to the same standards, we cannot expect our students to do the same. Accountability, past and future, is key if we are to move forward. We owe those who were harmed while in Thacher’s care nothing less.
 
In closing, we again apologize to those who were subjected to sexual misconduct while in Thacher’s care—you were badly let down, and we will carry both our deep regret and gratitude for your courage with us always. We are hopeful that the actions detailed in this letter chart a path toward truth and reconciliation and demonstrate our commitment to doing all that we can to prevent such harm from ever happening again at Thacher.
 
Respectfully on behalf of The Thacher School Board of Trustees, 
Dan Yih
Board Chair
 
 
 
 
 

Investigation Report


Board Conclusions

Click here to download board conclusions drawn from the Special Committee Report.

Corrective Actions

Click here to download recommended corrective actions.

Contact Munger, Tolles & Olson

We encourage anyone who wishes to report an experience of sexual misconduct or harassment to contact MTO directly at thacher@mto.com or (213) 683-4910.

Contact the Ventura County Sheriff's Office

Anyone with information related to allegations of sexual misconduct at Thacher may contact Sergeant Hector Macias of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office at (805) 384-4730. Click here to read a press release from the Sheriff's Office. 

In addition, the Ventura County Family Justice Center is available to assist all those who have been impacted by these painful events. The VCFJC is a collaborative community response to domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder and dependent adult abuse, human trafficking, hate crime and other violent crimes. All services are free of charge, confidential, and available whether you have reported to law enforcement or not. The VCFJC can be reached at (805) 652-7655. Click here to read a press release from the Ventura County District Attorney describing the services available from the VCFJC.

Funded Therapeutic Support

In partnership with the Thacher administration, the board of trustees has created a support fund to provide assistance with therapy related to the trauma of sexual misconduct experienced during a student's time at Thacher. The fund will be confidentially and independently managed and operated by RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S., and by an independent third-party claims administrator. Neither RAINN nor the third-party claims administrator will share any personally identifying information of those accessing the fund with the School or with Thacher's Board of Trustees. Alumni who wish to access these services are encouraged to call RAINN directly through either the toll-free hotline at 844-908-4224 or the local number for international callers at 805-243-1692.

Contact Thacher

To contact the School with questions or concerns, please email thacherresponds@thacher.org.

Support Resources

  • Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): rainn.org
  • Ventura County Family Justice Center: 805 652 7655 / vcfjc.org
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org

Special Committee Members

    • Janie Carroll Richardson CdeP 1983, Chair of the Audit Committee, Parent ’15, ’17 (Chair)
    • Christina Chiu Alfandary CdeP 1985, Chair of the Program Committee, Parent ’22
    • Justin Faggioli CdeP 1969, Trustee Emeritus, Parent ’00, ’02
    • Annica Howard, Chair of the Personnel Committee, Parent ’12, ‘12, and ‘16
    • Stefanie Warren CdeP 1996, Chair of the Governance Committee
    • Daniel Yih, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parent ’10, ’12, and ’15
    Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.