Last year the temporary Head of School, Don North made continuous comments about my affinity for Nike shorts. At first I ignored it thinking oh haha old white man humor until it didn’t stop and at one point he put his hand on my back. During this time he would joke (repeatedly) that I didn’t own a pair of jeans. Now looking back it was really weird that he repeatedly (and I’m talking repeatedly) made comments about my shorts/jeans. Maybe it wasn’t bad but it made me uncomfortable. I told my friends my concerns and a dorm parent over heard. The dorm parent told him and he then apologized to me but it was very public and made me feel shamed for even saying anything. Maybe nothing happened but still.
I witnessed so many sexually inappropriate interactions between students and faculty during my time at Indian Springs. From seeing my male classmates sit on my Latin teacher’s (John Lusco) lap on a daily basis to hearing my chemistry teacher (Chris Tetzlaff) speak extensively about her personal life and tell sexually explicit jokes in class, I realized immediately that there were very few boundaries in place between teachers and students.
While no faculty members were reprimanded for their sexually inappropriate behavior during my time at Springs, I did face severe reprimand and punishment for something I believe I should not have been held responsible for.
When I was in the ninth grade, I began to develop a close relationship with a faculty member at Springs. I visited his office every day for assistance with his class, sought out opportunities to speak with him outside of class, and sat with him at lunch to converse in the foreign language he taught. I developed an emotional attachment to him that lasted for a few years. During that time, I was suffering from severe mental health challenges, as well as experiencing bullying from my classmates, so my relationship with this teacher was one of the few sources of support I had, and I therefore had intense feelings toward him. When the faculty member started making efforts to distance himself from me when I was in the 11th grade due to the overly close nature of the relationship, I became distraught and did not understand why he was doing this. This led to a friend of mine sending him an email asking him to “go back to the way things were” with me.
This email resulted in myself and my parents being called into the headmaster’s (Gareth Vaughan) office, where I was reprimanded for my strong feelings and attachment to this teacher. The headmaster told me that my actions were reprehensible and that he was concerned that if he allowed me to continue interacting with this faculty member, I would eventually falsely accuse him of sexual assault in order to get attention. This comment has stayed with me for years and had a huge impact on my life. I have spent far too long wondering what about me made me seem like the type of person that would falsely accuse someone of sexual assault.
It is only recently that I have begun to see how horrifying it is that while I, 16 years old at the time, was so severely punished for my feelings toward a faculty member, a multitude of faculty members were committing egregiously inappropriate sexual misconduct and no one said a word. While I recognize now that some of my behaviors toward the aforementioned teacher made him quite uncomfortable and put him in a precarious position, and I understand the need to take ownership of that, I feel that the punishment I faced was significantly out of proportion considering I was a minor at the time, and considering that adult sexual offenders were not reprimanded at all.
My experience at Indian Springs School was intensely traumatizing and bewildering. I am grateful to the individuals who have so bravely spoken out about the abuse they experienced. I am hesitant to even share my story because I know it does not compare to so many of the other stories shared here, but it did leave a lasting impact. The work being done to support survivors is incredibly important and I stand in solidarity with them. Thank you to anyone who has listened to my story.
Clint Jacobs should never have been allowed to set foot on campus, much less have been hired as a patently unqualified member of the faculty. He clearly thought of himself as his students' playmate and play he did, especially with the female students, with complete disregard for the consequences. He told me he loved me, molested me, broke my heart, and tossed me aside for the next pretty girl, who was nearly the same age as his own daughter. I'm certain his wife Kelli knew that he was involved with female students, with late hours in his office in private lessons, after-hours practice-room sessions, and weekend "lessons" and "rehearsals." WHy didn't Springs release his name, Chuck Williams' name, and TIm Thomas' name, instead of the names of long-dead or departed people? It is a massive coverup.
Springs in the late 80s/early 90s was a weird place. I didn’t understand that at the time, but I have a hard time believing that the adults didn’t know. Lusco always had boys in his lap, and the rumors were that a higher grade was given to the boys who flirted back. Watkins had a thing for boys too- so much so that boys would compare stories after class about whose back pockets he put his hands into. Girls weren’t safe at all either. I was told more than once to not go to Balch’s office alone, and the joke was that he wouldn’t look girls in the eye because he was too busy staring at their breasts. Thomas wanted so badly to be popular with the pretty girls, and the stories about his working out naked in the gym were just creepy. I’m not at all surprised that the school (or that church since Thomas is still living, and it sure looks like the school is just avoiding naming the living) named all of these guys as predators. One I know they are leaving out was the assistant soccer coach Eric Woodard; his dad, Ray Woodard, was named, which also didn’t surprise me. This isn’t my story, it’s my friend’s story.
Clint Jacobs came on to all the girls in his Contemp class. He would lean over girls to "coach" or "place fingers on the instrument" so he would touch their breasts. He had dozens, maybe more, "private lessons" with girls late after classes, behind his locked office door. I wanted to sing and play guitar, do something different from choir, but my Contemp experience lasted only a year because I was so creeped out by Clint's flirting with all the girls... always followed by "Ah, I'm just kidding you!" He wasn't kidding, he wasn't harmless, he should never have been hired, and his crimes should not have been swept under the rug, along with those of the other living molesters.
As it's been said before, Chuck Williams had a "thing" for redheads. I joined the cross country team my sophomore year, and he was the coach. Durning stretches, he would often put his hands on my hips/butt to make sure I was "doing the stretch right." Other times, I would be on a run and he would come out of nowhere and run with me the entire time. While this wasn't an assault by any means, it made me very uncomfortable being in the middle of the woods alone with him. Another time, I was sitting outside of the dining hall, and he came up, put his arms around me, and said, "How's my favorite red head doing?" I feel hesitant to share these things, as they lack in severity compared to other stories, but I felt very uncomfortable around him and recognized his motivations. Additionally, this seems like the appropriate platform to share my experience with student-teacher misconduct, regardless of how big or little the incidents were.
I hesitate to write this experience because the misconduct pales in comparison to more serious abuse that occurred. I graduated in the 1980’s era. I vividly recall an incident in which a teacher disclosed to me privately that he had (at his campus housing) a photo of me. He described the photo to me; it was a photo of me alone. I recall the photo as one that another classmate (1 year my senior) had taken the photo of me. The photo ended up in the Khalas yearbook that year. I remember not knowing how to respond to him when he shared this fact with me. As an adult, I look back on that experience and know that it is inappropriate for a male teacher to have a photo of a 15 year old girl in his possession. As a 15 year old, I didn’t have the insight to properly frame what was happening as something that could be reportable. Not that it would mitigate the circumstances of blurred teacher/student boundaries but I wish he had not informed me at all. Again, my experience was minor compared to the abuse that many peers have shared with me. I will not share their stories but the abuse really happened. I applaud all who have bravely brought their stories to the investigators and through this platform. My heart goes out to all the victims of abuse and misconduct at ISS. Until the board of directors and current school leaders create real transparency by naming the living molestors and their transgressions, abuse of other innocent minors by these individuals may be imminent as they move to another community where their despicable actions are not known.
I have been extremely hesitant to share any of my experiences from my time at Indian Springs. To be frank, I hated my highschool experience and never came close to finding that special "love" for Springs that so many others had or have. I was probably not a good "culture" fit for the school and never had much of a desire to participate in anything outside of the classroom. I was always relieved when the clock hit 3:22 and was even more relieved when I walked off that stage with my diploma and knew I never had to go back if I didn't want to. I haven't. My time at ISS seemed to start off on the wrong foot in the 8th grade and never seemed to get back on track. After graduating, I attended what Gunnar Olson so lovingly referred to as "one of those big party schools" that are "good safety options if you don't get into your first or second choice." (It was my first choice and I loved everything about it Gunnar.) I lost touch with pretty much my entire class post-grad. I tried to just push memories from my time at Springs out of my head and was mostly successful. It wasn't until my then girlfriend and now fiancee began asking me about some of my highschool experiences that I realized there might be something more to what in hindsight was essentially complete and intentional repression of those 5 years.
While I am very fortunate to have not been assaulted by faculty at ISS, I was sexually assaulted behind the lockers by sophomore when was in eighth grade and he persistently harassed me in the years to follow. The, freshman year, a senior began to show her affection for me by slapping my butt so hard it would bruise. She’d pick me up and hug me so hard I couldn’t breathe. At that age, I didn’t know anything about same sex relationships so I just thought this was how it worked. I never reported either of these people, even though their actions were very much public.
Side note: Diane Sheppard would almost always come into my dorm room without knocking, shortly after I left the showers.
When I was in 11th grade, I took a public speaking elective with Chuck Williams. I was shy and soft spoken, and signed up for the class to get better at using my voice. In class, which took place in the Technology Lab, Williams asked his students to read and act out lines from a play. I don’t remember the name of the play. He asked another female student in the class and me to read lines from the play that he chose, which included a fake orgasm. He asked me to repeat the lines in front of the entire class and other students in the Technology Lab over and over and over again, each time with more enthusiasm. I was clearly uncomfortable, and giggled while reading the lines. I refused to vocalize noises of an orgasm in a realistic way, but Williams said I could not sit down until I read the lines with more enthusiasm or believability. I can’t remember the exact words he used. I’m not sure how many times he asked me to perform the lines before he allowed me to sit down, but it felt like I was in front of the class and other students from different classes, performing a fake orgasm, for a very long time. I remember feeling embarrassed, and I laughed with friends about the incident that afternoon to brush off my feelings of humiliation. Outside of that class, when I was sitting at school computers in the Technology Lab, Chuck Williams often stood behind me and wrapped his arms around my back to reach the keyboard in front of me. I remember feeling uncomfortable, but not in danger. I did not report these incidents because I felt vindicated in my escapes from Chuck Williams: I smiled, held my ground, and stayed out of his way. Giggling my way out of uncomfortable situations to avoid physical assault is something I’ve done many times since these interactions. It saddens me that these moments at Springs set the precedent for how I’ve protected myself from men in power throughout my life. It should not be up to students to set boundaries with teachers.
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