"The school says it’s putting in new procedures, including giving mandatory training on recognizing the signs of educator sexual misconduct to all faculty and staff and will require it annually going forward, enhancing the background checks for faculty, staff, and adults living on campus, and implementing an anonymous reporting system." from this article on your website: New revelations about alleged sexual misconduct at Indian Springs School and Birmingham church I am so disgusted by the way the school is handling this. The victims are real and will forever have this filth in their memories of High school. Most of us have such happy memories of high school (I didn't go to this high school but my friend did) and for the unlucky adults/students to have these painful memories from their high school years in their heads (shaking my head) its torture and inhumane. For the school to say that they will conduct background checks and create an anonymous reporting systems, etc??? I don't see how this will be of any help in any way because its the administration and school board that needs to be fired and removed. That school needs to be "gutted" of all current personnel. The culture needs to change entirely and the only way to do that is to start fresh. Close the school and have students find a place to finish out this year. Admin have been hiding the facts and looking the other way to protect the wrong people and themselves. The protection should have been toward the children who are under the authority of those committing these inappropriate acts, however serious or not serious they are. Whether slapping a kids butt, sandwiching the kid between themselves and another surface, or any sexual act, its wildly inappropriate and wrong on every level. The sole purpose of teaching is to serve children, educate them and protect them! These teachers have done none of that. Where is DATELINE or 20/20? I am contacting both on the survivors behalf. I will be making sure they have this https://www.springssurvivors.org weblink. They can do the investigating. I am glued to Dateline and 20/20 stories and the nation will be too. God Bless to all the survivors that are so brave and vulnerable to come forth and tell their stories. (Even if you don't feel your story is serious enough or not, they are all very valuable in weaving the fabric of the culture of this incredibly corrupt school)
Indian Springs holds such a special place in my heart. It's deeply upsetting to know that while I was experiencing some of the best years of my life, other people were being victimized. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have to exist as a victim in an environment where no one is apparently concerned about abusive behavior. It must make a person question his or her own reality. It must feel so isolating. For a child to bear that experience is heart-wrenching. I admire those who had the courage to speak up when they were in high school, and I am angry they did not receive the support they deserved. I stand in solidarity with the victims who have kept quiet - however you choose to deal with your experience is right and valid. Abuse masquerades as normal until it's specifically named as pathological. It's just a teacher being quirky and maybe a little too cozy until someone accurately calls it abuse. That should not be a child’s responsibility. I hope the efforts of the good people behind this site result in Springs implementing institutional structures that prevent future abuse, support former victims, and provide channels for reporting future incidents if they occur. Thank you all for speaking up. I’m with you.
Thank you to all who have chosen to share your stories on this site. I see you and I believe you. You should never have been made to feel unsafe, especially by people who were expressly tasked with caring for your well being. Please know that there are so many of us out here listening and supporting you. I hope that sharing your stories helps you to heal and gives you strength in knowing that you are not alone. Know also that, by speaking out, you have helped so many- those that had similar experiences but are not yet ready to speak, those who come after you who will be saved from enduring these same atrocities, and those that are trying to make sense of this dark secret the school is working so hard to conceal. Thank you.
I sat down to try and write something large and grandiose here to show my support for the students who went through this, and for those who are speaking out, and I realized I don't have the words for it, so I am going to go dirt simple on this one.
We Believe You. We Care About You. We Support You.
This is a site for survivors of sexual misconduct and this story is certainly not about that. But hearing the charges against Mr. Watkins suddenly made an experience I had with him decades earlier make a horrible kind of sense. During my time at Springs Mr. Watkins was still living on campus and he was very involved in the international student community. I'd like to think this was out of a genuinely welcoming heart, but knowing what I know now it strikes me as convenient that these were kids far, far from home in an unfamiliar culture and, as this was before the age of cell phones and email, had parents who were not easily accessible in a crisis.
My freshman year of college was at the time when email was just becoming a thing so in the wonder of it all, you would email just about anyone you knew. Somehow I got Mr. Watkins's address, even though we had never spent a lot of time together at Springs, and struck up a casual correspondence. How's college life? OK. How's Springs? How's [friend] and [friend]? Fine, etc.
Nothing remarkable about it until one day I got an email from him that at the time struck me as so out of character. He complained on and on about how much he did for international students and how no one ever reimbursed him for gas or told him thank you, most of them took him for granted, and so forth and so on.
Mr. Watkins had a reputation for having a heart of gold, the kind of person who just loved doing things for others, and the email disturbed me deeply although I couldn't rationally explain why. He was allowed to have a bad day, right? Maybe Springs really *didn't* reimburse him for gas. Maybe they should do more on that count. Maybe I was just reacting to this idealized version of him that I had from my time at Springs and now that I was at college, it disturbed me that he had become a real person with real problems. Maybe he just wasn't good at writing email. Maybe I was being silly and over-reacting.
Some or all of that might possibly be true, but what I know now is that my emotional distress came from the dropping of the mask, the revelation that someone you thought was acting from pure motives had a darkness to them. It would never in a million years have occurred to me that Mr. Watkins was abusing students - maybe had abused some of my friends for all I know - but that email disturbed me so much that I never contacted him again.
For anyone reading here who may have been a victim of his, I'm sorry for the pain you've experienced and wish you every peace.
I just want to point out that a highly regarded school in Oregon just endured this sort of historical abuse and the way they treated it. I have attached the report that the Catlin Gabel school released to the parents and greater community regarding the investigation and the results. While some of the accused have died, there was an effort made to ensure the accused are identified. There was no sense of self-protection from the school. Transparency and scrutiny were apparent in the message sent to the affected. They even went as far to detail some of the stories gathered in their investigation.
On the other hand, we have ISS trying appear as though they are ‘taking this very seriously’, when the actions of the school say something quite different. Many buzzwords are in the letters to alums and parents to show the appearance of concern and validation of the people involved on the victims’ side. Then why would the Springs Survivors website exist as something more than a place for people to gather, support victims, discuss prevention, and heal? Because there is a need to call for full accountability and make every effort to prevent these heinous crimes from occurring again. Too bad image is more important.
I believe that part of the culture in the Deep South is to sweep the 'nasty bits' and secrets under the rug. Having been raised in the heart of Alabama, I was able to witness firsthand how saving face was the paramount goal to so many. Image=everything to the people of that region. I understand the drive and need to protect the image and cache of the school, but at what expense? The school is treating this as though it is the 'nutty' uncle that gets a little drunk and tells an off-color joke at the Thanksgiving table. A little embarrassment that they would like to sweep under the rug and pretend isn't happening.
I also knew many of the named accused and only had deep misgivings about one of them (which I reported to Doug Jennings when I heard tales and witnessed personally). The others... I was shocked to read their names as abusers. I was greatly saddened and unwilling to believe that these men could have done these things, but that is the point, right? To blend in while you're hunting for your prey. I believe the survivors, but my brain is having a hard time processing it all, to be honest. I wish nothing but the best for them and hope that they can find some help and support to deal with the trauma they endured.
The silence from the school is deafening. The passivity and lack of accountability by the school and board is atrocious. While there is not victim-shaming or denial of the validity of the victims’ claims, what the school saying -even shouting- to the abused is, ‘YOU DON’T MATTER!’
To the victims: You matter. Your story has value and should be heard. There isn’t a way to take away the pains of the past, but there is a way to keep from heaping more shame and suffering upon them.
To Indian Springs School, the Board of Governors, alumni council and community: Stop being cowards. Face your demons. All the former faculty that have been credibly accused that still interact with CHILDREN (not young men and women… these are kids) and ABUSE them are on YOU… Unless you ALL are willing to stand up and protect the children affected, you are part of the problem. In fact, you are the problem.
To my classmates who suffered at the hands of the educators entrusted to guide us, I am so sorry. You never should have been exposed to such harm and whatever abuses you experienced are 100% not your fault.
I loved my time at Springs and continue to love the school. It’s open and permissive culture created many positive learning opportunities for me. However, I now much more clearly see how this culture also made it too easy for certain teachers to take advantage and harm children. I have my own memories of Mr Smith chatting with me late at night on Facebook when I was a senior. While I acknowledge this isn’t an inherently inappropriate act, looking back this was not an example of healthy relational boundaries between an adult male and an adolescent female.
I hope survivors know that I care deeply about what happened and that there are many of your classmates who care and want to support you as best as we possibly can.
Cari stayer ‘06
Messages of support for survivors of sexual misconduct and harassment at Indian Springs are posted here. All submissions must adhere to our community standards. Submit your messages of support here.