Dear GA Community,
I hope this note finds you and your families well. As you read in my last communication in June, Germantown Academy faculty, staff, and students have been the subject of claims on social media of sexual assault/harassment. Most of these posts are anonymous, which makes investigation difficult. However, we can only imagine how difficult it was for these individuals to come forward and we appreciate their bravery in doing so. Please know this - Germantown Academy takes these matters and our obligation to evaluate every claim seriously. We want our entire school community to be safe, and feel safe, at all times, and we are committed to ensuring that happens.
I recently sent a communication to our faculty and staff as a reminder of the protocols we have set in place in our formal handbooks and reiterated that reporting any incidents of sexual assault/harassment is mandatory. I also pledged that we would commit to additional professional development and training for our faculty and staff around these subjects in the coming school year, with the goal, as always, to provide a supportive, respectful environment for all members of our community – especially our students. Our students' safety and well-being are our priority, and we must do everything in our power to provide an environment where there are no incidents of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
It is important that we make every effort and continually evaluate and reevaluate policies and procedures to create a safe, respectful environment for our students. As always, we will partner with our Board of Trustees and others to ensure such policies are not only best practices, but most importantly, effectively enforced to meet our goals and objectives.
In response to the claims posted on social media, we have created several pathways for our students, alumni, parents, current and former faculty/staff, and other members of the GA community to share experiences of sexual misconduct. We have engaged Melanie Rychok, MSW, LCSW an external third-party professional specializing in trauma, with a special focus on childhood sexual abuse, to provide a safe and confidential space for members of our community to share and report incidents of sexual misconduct. As a liaison between those who wish to share their experiences and Germantown Academy, Melanie will also look for any trends or cultural issues that may contribute to an unhealthy environment. She will be available for supportive and therapeutic discussion wherein further assessment, recommendations and referrals for the individual can be provided. All conversations are private and confidential, and Melanie will obtain the individual's permission and written consent before sharing personal information.
- The identities of participants who want to remain anonymous are protected and will not be revealed.
- All conversations are private and confidential, with the promise not to disclose identifying information in her findings to Germantown Academy without the subject's written consent.
- Before sharing any information with the school, Melanie will first check with the person to make sure they are comfortable with the disclosure. If not, the information will not be shared.
You can contact Melanie at email@example.com.
If you prefer, use this FORM to submit information with or without identifying data, and with or without contact information. No personally identifiable information is collected unless a participant voluntarily offers that information in any of the comment fields. Those using the form also have the option to request follow up contact from Melanie. The following are additional resources to report suspected incidents of abuse or criminal behavior.
- If you have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect of a child, you may contact the Pennsylvania ChildLine and Abuse Registry at 1-800-932-0313. Any information submitted here that raises reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect of a child will be shared with child protective services or law enforcement consistent with Pennsylvania law.
- Potential criminal conduct may also be reported to local law enforcement by contacting the Whitemarsh Township Police Department.
- Please remember that the Safe to Say anonymous reporting system is always available for students as well.
It is our hope that in gathering information and providing ways for our community to safely share experiences and trauma, we can acknowledge their suffering and take action to create positive and lasting change.
Please reach out to me, Director of GA Counseling Services Janet Maurer 1760, or our Board Chair Lori Griswold 1760 with any questions or concerns.
Rich Schellhas 1760
Head of School