Yesterday, we published a pastoral letter from the Rt Rev A. Robert Hirschfeld, responding to the trial of a former student at St Paul’s School, and examining the relationship between the school and the wider Episcopal community in New Hampshire.
The Rector of St Paul’s School, Michael G. Hirschfeld, along with the President of the Board of Trustees, James Waterbury, Jr., has also published a letter to the St Paul’s Community in the wake of the conviction of Owen Labrie for sexual assault. Michael Hirschfeld is the brother of Bishop Robert Hirschfeld.
Many terms, including “senior salute” and “score” that are part of the student vernacular, have been discussed as part of the trial. These terms, and the behaviors they suggest, have and will continue to be addressed by the School community. There is no place for inappropriate and hurtful behavior that disrespects any member of our School. Conduct that is damaging to the fabric of our community and inconsistent with our values has never been – and will not be – tolerated….During the last 15 months, we have continued to learn much about our School and the students it serves. We have learned that we must do more as a School community, students and adults alike, to support those who stand up for themselves when they feel they have been wronged. Our ongoing work will be even more difficult having witnessed the challenges of the trial, but it remains our responsibility to make our School the safest place possible.We have been painfully reminded of the fact that social media can provide an adult-free space for negative student culture to form and perpetuate itself. We have learned that what was once termed “dating” or “courting” behavior has been inverted in some instances from our traditional sensibilities – sexual contact is now seen as the point of origin of many relationships, not a part of an emotionally developed relationship. These issues have highlighted some of the differences in educating students in the 21st century.
I graduated from St. Paul’s in 1985 and have served on the faculty since 1994. Now that my daughter has graduated and my son attends, I can attest to the intensive and transformative – and joyful – experience that students encounter at this school. Graduates return year after year. They tell us what St. Paul’s has meant in their lives and, especially often, how their best friends remain fellow students from their years here.
The School has changed in a number of ways over its 159-year history, but it has never wavered in the expectations it has of its students – that they live honorably and respectfully and that they never forget to be kind. These are our core values – ones that will continue to guide us.