Corroborated evidence of sexual misconduct by nearly 20 alumni Caté School teachers and staff dating back to the 1960s are detailed in a lengthy report produced by a third-party investigative group.
the 37-page report through Oppenheimer Investigations Group LLP was released on December 13. It came about after former students informed the school of suspected incidents of sexual misconduct involving faculty members.
Cate School is a prestigious four-year, over 100-year-old coeducational preparatory boarding school in Carpinteria, attended by students from across the country, paying around $ 68,000 in tuition to live on campus, according to the school website. .
The investigation looked into any sexual misconduct and harassment between teachers and students, whether Cate School administrators were aware of such conduct and, if so, what action the school took. to answer.
There were seven people named in the report, including former Cate School employee Da’Jon James, who was arrested in Boulder County, Colorado earlier this year on suspicion of child sexual assault and illegal sexual contact. There were 10 other people not named in the report.
When deciding who to directly name in the report, investigators took into account the severity of the misconduct, whether there was a pattern of misconduct with multiple students, whether the conduct involved physical or emotional coercion or behavior predilection, the number of reports made about the individual, the presence of independent corroborating evidence, and the ongoing current risk to students at Cate School or students for that matter.
The named respondents include a former school principal, teachers, a deputy director of development and a music director.
The most recent allegation was brought against James, who was the director of vocal music at Cate from the summer of 2019 to February 2020.
Several witnesses spoke of James’ “border crossing” including physical touching of female students, discussions of personal matters, developing intimate friendships with female students, inappropriate sexual comments, having sex. students in his apartment on campus late at night and treat students like peers, according to the report.
The most serious allegations came from a girl identified as Student N, who reported that James invited her and her friends to watch television in the evenings, “sitting next to her and touching her thigh “on one occasion, according to the report.
Student N also told investigators that James would make comments such as, “If I was in high school, I would go out with you.”
Student N said she went to James’ room on her own one evening in November 2019 to watch TV, and James spread her legs so that she could lean on his chest, “circled her with his arms around his chest, “began to kiss her neck and the top of her head, and felt her chest through her sweatshirt.
“While James was doing this, he made comments such as’ I know this is wrong ‘and’ I shouldn’t be doing this. ‘You are a student,’ the report reads.
As Noozhawk previously reported, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into James on April 1 after “commissioned journalists outside the school” spoke out on behalf of survivors of sexual assault.
“Detectives have identified several survivors of sexual assault in this case who are both current and former students of Cate School,” said Sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick at the time of the announcement. investigation.
Lt. Robert Minter told Noozhawk on Wednesday that detectives had submitted all of their investigative reports to the District Attorney’s Office for evaluation.
James was arrested in July in Boulder County while teaching at the Dawson School, a private school for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. He was taken into custody following allegations of sexual assault involving female students at Dawson School.
James admitted to investigators that he struggled to create boundaries between students and teachers at Cate and had strong ties to the female students, describing one female student “as a sister” and another as “the Jewel of the Earth” , according to the report.
“At that point, I knew the limits were pretty gray. … I had a new job, a new city, and I had no friends, and she was my best friend and my family, ”James told investigators of his relationship with a student.
School administrators were aware of James’ conduct and he was made aware of his behavior on several occasions, according to the report. The school eventually terminated James in February 2020 after being made aware of the allegation that he had placed his hand on a student’s thigh, and at the same time, the administration filed a report with Child protection services.
When asked why James hadn’t been fired earlier, the school’s current deputy principal Jay Dorian told investigators: “I know what it looks like now. It looks like me now, and I fully understand the progression. Part of what we were trying to do was work with a new faculty member and a member who we thought was very promising, and try to analyze the intent around his contact with the students …
“At the time, I felt like we were trying to be very sensitive to their concerns and to a young man who seemed to be really trying. “
Other named respondents included a former teacher, school principal, coach and dorm principal who was with the school from the 1960s to the 1990s. He was accused of caring for a female student while at Cate and of ” having sex with her after graduation.
The student also said that she and the man used to exchange letters and notes which became intimate and sexual over time.
The report found the man denied the letters were intimate and denied any sexual contact with the student in a hotel room, but investigators found the accounts to be corroborated as four former students corroborated the ‘information.
There was no evidence that school administrators were aware of the Cate school employee’s conduct, according to the report.
One of the most serious allegations came against a teacher who taught in the 1980s and ran the school’s outdoor program in the 1990s, according to the report. A girl said she was sexually assaulted by a man more than 20 times while attending school in the 1980s.
The former student reported the incident to the Cate administration in 2019 and reached a settlement agreement with Cate and the teacher. Previous directors were not aware of any allegations against him and were not involved in settlement negotiations, according to the report.
School principal Ben Williams said he accepted the student’s account as credible and wished to “repair the damage” in any way she saw fit, according to the report.
The allegations were upheld because Student G’s account was corroborated by testimony and they provided documents indicating the inappropriate nature of their communications and relationship, according to the report.
The report found that 10 anonymous respondents massaged female students, participated in emotional and homophobic abuse, made sexual comments and demonstrated bad boundaries.
“Unearthing the traumatic events experienced by community members is devastating for all of us, especially the survivors,” the Cate School board said in a letter after the report was released. “In response to this report, we ask each of us to act with the grace, compassion and privacy that reflects the school’s spirit of care towards all members of our community. . The anonymity and public nature of social media can be particularly harmful in its insensitivity to those we strive to protect – our students, past and present.
The school has established a therapy funds to assist alumni and alumni “seeking reimbursement for therapy related to sexual abuse” while at Cate, and initiated the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network (RAINN) to manage the dedicated Cate School Therapy Fund helpline and provide confidential support and information on how to access the fund, according to the school’s website.
Cate School did not respond to Noozhawk’s request for comment this week.
Click here to read the full report of Oppenheimer Investigations Group LLP.