Dear members of the Milton community,
Cultivating respect for others is a core institutional value at Milton Academy, which requires deliberate, consistent thought and action. In the environment of respect that Milton nurtures, and guided by our motto, “Dare to Be True,” we write today to continue a communication we began last spring.
In May, we wrote to inform you that Milton Academy had engaged T&M Protection Resources to conduct an independent fact-finding investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by former Milton employees on former Milton students. As Milton’s leaders today, our goal was to understand more fully our institution’s past, so that we could acknowledge any wrongdoing and support those individuals who were affected, directly or indirectly, by any transgressions.
We are sharing with you the findings of that investigation, which revealed that several decades ago this institution failed to protect some of the young people in its care. On behalf of Milton Academy and its board of trustees, we want to acknowledge and deeply apologize for those failures. We also want to set forth the concrete actions the School has taken in response to these findings and emphasize our clear commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our students today.
Investigation Process and Key Findings
In early May 2016, after the Boston Globe published an article about sexual misconduct at independent schools, we wrote to all Milton Academy constituents, reiterating our commitment to the safety of children; explaining our relevant programs; and soliciting information about any transgressions of the past or present. In response to that invitation, we received allegations of sexual misconduct implicating past employees.
To investigate these allegations, Milton Academy engaged Laura Kirschstein, vice president of T&M Protection Resources (T&M). Ms. Kirschstein, who directs the firm’s sexual misconduct and investigations division, was charged with conducting an independent fact-finding investigation into these reports. Milton Academy engaged T&M through legal counsel Holland & Knight to ensure the privacy of victims and witnesses, many of whom participated on the condition of confidentiality or anonymity.
In a second communication to all members of the Milton community, in late May, we invited individuals to contact Ms. Kirschstein with information they felt to be relevant. Ms. Kirschstein’s investigative team reviewed all pertinent School records and conducted extensive interviews of 60 individuals, including alumni, faculty, administrators and parents of alumni, as well as former members of the faculty, administration and board of trustees.
Based on its independent examination of the evidence, T&M substantiated reports that four former employees engaged in sexual misconduct with students several decades ago. In determining our threshold for naming publicly these former employees, we carefully considered several factors including:
1) the severity of the offense;
2) whether the individual engaged in sexual misconduct with students in repeated incidents;
3) whether there exists a potential risk to public safety today; and
4) maintaining a victim’s request for privacy, where disclosure would compromise that privacy.
With these criteria in mind, we feel an obligation to share with you specific information about one former faculty member.
T&M concludes that Rey Buono, a member of the Milton faculty from 1973 to 1987, engaged in multiple incidents of sexual misconduct with students during his tenure at Milton. T&M substantiated reports of abuse involving at least 12 male students, all of who were minors at the time. Evidence suggests that Rey Buono is living today in Southeast Asia.
T&M further concludes that then Headmaster Jerry Pieh (1973–1991) had some knowledge of Rey Buono’s misconduct in 1982. Rey Buono continued to be employed at Milton until 1987, when he admitted to sexually abusing a student and his employment was terminated. T&M concludes, and we agree, that Milton Academy’s leadership at that time failed to protect students and failed to investigate whether Rey Buono had abused other students during his tenure at the School.
T&M also substantiated reports against three other former employees, for incidents occurring several decades ago. In each case the former employee was male, and in each case there was one victim; all victims were female, and all were minors. The misconduct ranged from instances of lewd comments or sexual touching to sexual intercourse. Most of these instances occurred on campus but were not reported at the time to the School’s administration.
T&M also acknowledged incidents that Milton Academy had investigated, in response to reports that former employees had engaged in sexual misconduct with students. Those matters were resolved by the administration at the time, and those employees were consequently separated from the School.
We are confident that T&M’s investigation was thorough and complete based on all the information that members of the community brought forward, and based on all records that the School submitted. Though the formal investigation is completed, we remain committed to investigating and responding to any allegation of sexual misconduct. Any person with new or different information should contact us or Laura Kirschstein directly at 212-916-8852 or email@example.com.
From our perspectives—one as a parent and educator, one as a Milton alumna—we are deeply saddened by the conclusions of this investigation. On behalf of Milton Academy and the board of trustees, we offer our most sincere apology to those affected, in any way, by these acts, and for an insufficient response to these incidents by School leadership of that time. We know that victims of sexual misconduct can live with the repercussions of those acts for years. We are profoundly sorry for this institution’s failure to protect against this harm.
In response to T&M’s findings, we have filed reports with the appropriate officials and law enforcement agencies. All perpetrators have been banned from campus and from all Milton Academy events. In the case of Rey Buono, we have also notified immigration authorities. We have sent communication of these findings to all known former employers of Rey Buono.
To help address the impact on the victims and those close to them, Milton is offering to pay for professional counseling services for anyone affected by these incidents. If you would like to speak about counseling support, you may contact Deborah O’Toole, Milton’s chief human resources officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-898-2286, or you may contact our independent consulting psychiatrist, Dr. Mike Jellinek, at email@example.com, who will keep your name anonymous to the School.
In addition to maintaining what we believe are today’s best practices in student wellness and safety, we will engage an external expert to help us assess Milton’s current practices, policies and programs—K–12—to make sure that our approach to student safety is exemplary. As part of our ongoing assessment, we will offer victims of these past incidents the opportunity to help us evaluate today’s range of policies, procedures, student programming and adult training addressing student wellness and safety.
We want to thank the many individuals who came forward to speak with Ms. Kirschstein, and all of those who assisted in various ways with this investigation. The strength of this investigation was dependent upon the participants’ willingness to share their stories. We commend your courage, and we are grateful to you for helping our School confront its past and move toward healing.
Protection of Milton Students Today
Faculty, staff and administrators are better prepared today, than they were decades ago, to identify signs of sexual harassment or abuse and respond appropriately. Today, students and parents are more likely to come forward seeking help, action or counseling. And today the laws outlining institutions’ reporting responsibilities, regarding instances of sexual abuse, are crystal clear. We focus intently on nurturing appropriate and healthy relationships between students and adults, as well as developing mutual care and respect among students. We are vigilant in maintaining students’ safety and wellbeing, and we have many structures and practices in place to help prevent such incidents from happening today.
Each year, Milton employees complete training and education sessions on sexual harassment, mandated reporting, and appropriate boundaries when working with children. At the start of this school year, Milton faculty and staff participated in training on maintaining proper boundaries with young people, particularly in a boarding school environment. These training programs educate our faculty and staff in real time, but the work of setting and communicating standards is never done.
Our curriculum—for students in Kindergarten through Class I—involves developmentally appropriate lessons and discussions about healthy relationships and good decision-making; about boundaries, responsibility, self-respect and care for others. We invite outside experts to speak with students about issues related to consent, and we use dedicated course programming to focus on the important issues of self-care and good citizenship. At the start of this year, all Upper School students spent time in their Affective Education classrooms understanding affirmative consent—a “yes means yes” model. Throughout the year, we educate students about the many resources available to them on campus—Milton’s professional counseling staff, peer leaders, Independent Student Support and SECS (Students Educating the Community About Sexuality), Human Sexuality and Relationships courses, and Milton’s Outreach Team.
We encourage you to visit https://www.milton.edu/news/resources-2017/, which includes a collection of resources, both internal and external; identifies ways to make a report of sexual misconduct or harassment; and outlines Milton’s current student safety practices, policies and programs.
We are all acutely aware that abusive events occurring to children can cause significant and persisting damage. We must all work together, and hold ourselves collectively accountable, to prevent acts of sexual misconduct from happening; to care fully for individuals affected by it; and to respond to any allegations swiftly, thoroughly and responsibly. Guided by Milton’s enduring values—including integrity and respect; creating a community in which individuals develop competence, confidence and character; and living by our motto, “Dare to Be True”—we aspire to be a leader in student safety and wellness, now and in the years to come.
Todd B. Bland
Head of School
Lisa Donohue ’83
President of the Board of Trustees
View more from the Healing and Safety Oversight Committee.