Deerfield Academy: In today's Boston Globe

This article may be of interest to those who have (or hope to have!) a connection to Deerfield. No doubt there will be many points of view about this. I hope the link works; if not, the article is easy to find online.

If 13 year-old boys arrive on campus from a home environment where the treatment of women is unequal, or not actively modeled, or where misogyny exists on some level, it will be almost impossible for a school like Deerfield to correct such behaviors simply by making speeches, hiring “an inclusion officer and ramping up anti-bias initiatives.” The only way to get well at Deerfield, or at any other historically privileged institution, is to answer boorish behavior with expulsions and suspensions and to tie those actions to understandable, consistent explanations so that everybody “gets” it and feels it. Tragically, money usually talks louder than doing what’s right.

It is repulsive when people or institutions talk out of both sides of their mouth about the second-class treatment of women, especially when it involves young, inexperienced and fragile teenagers trying to find their way and their self-confidence. I also wish more than anything that the right behavior toward women was being modeled on a national scale.

Every one of the top schools has an ugly side. Phillips Exeter, Andover, St Pauls Choate etc. Quite frankly women have ruined the culture at some of these schools–males are punished at rates many time higher than females for similar infractions. Males are expelled at higher rates and females get higher grades . When white males can sue for discrimination maybe there will be some balance restored. I know many kids at Deerfield-male and female. This story doenst jibe with what I have heard at all–will be interesting to see what happens

That has to be the most misogynistic comment I have ever read on this site. IMO of course.

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@Center “Women have ruined the culture at some of these schools…” Yes, let’s blame the women for doing what they can to stand up for themselves and demand the same treatment as privileged white males. And while we’re at it, let’s blame those uppity blacks for daring to demand equal treatment as well. Long live the white male. Now break out the ipecac; I’m going to be sick.

@Center I stumbled across your sentence “women have ruined the culture at some of these schools” had to reread to see if in fact I had misread it. Wow. You might need to rebalance your assessment of people in general. Wow, in my world that sentence would fall into the category of dinosaur thinking-little brains in big bodies which usually go extinct due their inability to adapt. I think if it were a social event, at this moment I would excuse myself to get a stiff drink. Or maybe I would state the obvious directly. I love to see the look on the faces of people who are rarely called to account. Wow. Still wow

Center- “Quite frankly women have ruined the culture at some of these schools”.

In the absence of these misogynistic cultures being “ruined” the graduates of these school would not be prepared to succeed in today’s progressive society. That is a primary responsibility of these schools.

Both males and females are benefiting by being forced to display mutual respect for one another in contrast to the archaic views expressed in your reply. In many ways your words and obvious biases have showcased the need for coed boarding schools and the imposition of rules to ensure gender equality.

Any thoughts on how to discuss this article with your kids or experiences discussing this article today? It was another opportunity to discuss important issues, as well as listening to the viewpoints and experiences of the students. I had some students in the back seat of the car today who read the article online…they had both known about this lawsuit from a story published several weeks ago…but things that stood out for the young readers of this article were the comments cited from the 2017 video. They tried to find it on YouTube, but couldn’t find it. Examples in the Globe article included comments from former and current students that being a girl was tough at the school or that boys enjoy more influence. These are experiences not unique to Deerfield. The young readers were saddened by this situation and by reading about what the teacher had endured. Also, discussed article yesterday in another NE paper about Owen Labrie starting his jail sentence in New Hampshire. Many layers of important issues to discuss with our kids.

The article gave some important information and history of Deerfield’s challenges and transformation to a co-ed school. However, to truly evaluate the climate at Deerfield the author would need to include information from males at the school as well as more information about the female teacher whose contract was not renewed. Although interesting and compelling if all information was true, it was one-sided. I would classify this article as a feature story where the author clearly had a viewpoint rather than a news article presenting balanced facts.

I would venture to guess most teenage boys enjoy having girls at their school. I would also believe there are some problems within the climate of the school. I find it difficult to truly evaluate the extent of those problems within the context of other co-ed boarding schools and if this is a Deerfield problem or a problem when teens, many of whom are typically privileged and entitled, live together.

I think the conversation to have with the kids is to ask them to think - really think -about the culture at their school. Do they think boys and girls are treated the same? Whites and not whites? LGBTQ and straight? What are the differences, why, and do they matter? Who gets a say? Who are there the most of in terms of groups and what power do they have? The reality is that it is hard to be a young person period so it’s often hard to realize that others are having a rough time too, often because of things that are “baked in” to the system.

These schools all take pride in their traditions and culture. When they make changes, it tends to be gradual because nobody wants to throw out the baby with the bath water. But most need some changes (even if it makes them less recognizable to the alums/donors).

Students outside the dominant culture are often not there as equal members of the community but as guests. It’s like throwing a party - you invite some interesting different folks to make it more interesting for your friends. But you don’t want those guests deciding what music to play, what food to eat, and creating their own guest list. So they realize that while they can have fun at your party, they also realize it’s YOUR party, and being told they should just feel happy to have been invited chafes.

Imagine then, challenging that, especially as @Empireapple notes, when the party-throwers include a lot of privileged and entitled kids who are used to throwing parties their way and who chose this school because it’s their kind of party. That is a threatening change for sure.

It’s great that your kids are talking about this. It’s not just one conversation but many, and they need to keep having them and being mindful of this.

I would encourage everyone to read the complaint and then actually read or reread the article.

Post # 6 - all problematic- especially the forcing people bit, but the day is short so…

" In the absence of these misogynistic cultures being “ruined” the graduates of these school would not be prepared to succeed in today’s progressive society. That is a primary responsibility of these schools."

That is not a primary responsibility of these schools and you’ve already determined that DA has a “misogynistic culture” ? Based on what exactly? Even bigger question: Do they teach civics anymore?

We have indeed become a progressive society. Think about what happened on a " national scale " last October where someone was criminalized instantly by the public due to an allegation. No evidence, corroboration, or testimony under oath is required to be instantly labeled a perpetrator. Think about that for a minute.

It should disturb the hell out of everyone.

On the other hand- it’s refreshing when people stop pretending they’re interested in due process. Authoritarian, but refreshingly honest. All good things to know in a progressive society … until the mob comes for you.

So let’s reserve judgment and see how this plays out.

^I was responding to post 2 not the article. Pardon the confusion given lack of context. I was suggesting mutually respectful behaviour should be mandatory in a boarding school community.

In terms of due process and rush to judgement I agree. I was attempting to refute (in a civil manner) the assertion that the presence of females was destroying schools culture.

Hmm. Well I would certainly read that article, as I read everything, with skepticism. What is the authors bias, if any? What are they trying to say? How many people from both sides did they interview. Did they highlight the shortcomings of their own article?
To me, the article cited a female teacher who worked at the school for many years. She likely has great insight. What we can’t discern is what she’s like. Does she harbor a strong feeling that women should be represented in some particular way? Does she feel all white men are privileged? Does she have some experiences which might color her perceptions in any way? Did she get riled up when she saw kids getting off serious violations over and over?

What’s most important to me is what do most girls feel at Deerfield? How are they truly perceived.
Perhaps what was most telling ( and disturbing) to me was the part about someone who have sexually harassed someone was let off with a note. I can tell you that would not work for many parents if their child was harassed. Also, the head of school writing a note regarding the length of skirts could be taken as an insult to many. Why not just have a dress code of some type?
We know five kids at Deerfield ( 3 girls and 2 boys). I am going to ask two of them what they think about it.
In the end, it’s tough to discern. Are there kids who should be thrown out for egregious behavior who are not? Or is the entire culture dominated by the thinking “boys will be boys?” There’s a real difference. This type of article can certainly hurt the type of students the school can attract. Parents, if they are wise will google the school and check for various scandals before sending in their checks.

^^ In thinking about this, it is also quite possible that those with wealth use their privilege to bully (including in more subtle ways) those without it. And in a situation in which a wealthy male harasses a less wealthy female, it may be the gender piece that gets the focus.

My hunch (and it is simply that – no inside info) is that a kid who is let off with a slap on the hand for a serious offense probably has some kind of privilege/entitlement at the school that has made those in power reluctant to put values first.

It’s important that we are vigilant against those who wish to make an exception to a rule an equivalency. 1% of scientists say climate change is a hoax. Is that sufficient for a valid argument, for equivalency? 1% of doctors say vaccines cause autism. Is that sufficient for a valid argument?

Yes, it is totally egregious when an innocent man or woman is sacrificed on the alter of knee-jerk, politically correct behavior…and we need to do our absolute best to prevent this. On the other hand, it is wholly unsurprising that DA or any other elite, storied boarding school remains fertile soil for old-school, social stereotypes, including the uneven treatment of women. We already know that a third of the country winks and nods about boys being boys when politicians occupying our highest offices treat and talk about women with utter disrespect.

DA has a hard road ahead creating healthier norms and better awareness of equality between the sexes. However, it is also blessed with all the necessary tools, people and money to make solid inroads, provided that it has the willingness to acknowledge the problem is legitimate, the will to improve itself, and the stomach to put what’s right ahead of moneyed interests.

There is an article from the Deerfield scroll that actually seems more objective and provides additional details of the lawsuit. However, “objective” really just means presenting more of the she said, they said, without the bias of the Boston Globe article (more accurately, editorial). IMO, the only thing that the public can and should do at this time is support the process, NOT take sides. These things demand thorough and objective investigation and transparency. Put the pitchforks down…but keep them within easy reach.

I’m not clear what point the author was making in reference to the kids that were mischievous in the days before graduation. I’m not lenient on discipline, but barring any high school student from one of the most memorable moments in their lives, attended by families that may have made substantial sacrifices over the previous 4 years, is a very severe punishment…regardless of gender.

Lastly, some people and cultures are bad. They are bad at their core. They are NOT bad because of their race, gender, income, etc. So suggesting correlation = causation is at a minimum misleading. Nobody will (or perhaps should) feel sorry for the discrimination and injustices encountered by the wealthy, white guy(s) in the room; but sometimes it gets old when threads seem to often circle back to us being the villains.

@altras Well said. It’s people that need to be held accountable, not racial/privileged/gender stereotypes. There are people who think the rules don’t apply to them in even gender, persuasion, socio-economic, age and nationality group. They shouldn’t be allowed to skirt the rules.

Honestly, I’m big on discipline. When the emails come in regarding students who have been expelled we talk about it. Yep. In great detail. What did they do. Why did they get thrown out. Did you know X kid? Etc.

As @Golfgr8 said, using these real life events to teach values is an important part of parenting. My kids know my expectations. They know if they don’t follow some rules there will be consequences. The parents are also to blame here. Few kids exhibit that type of behavior without a parent looking the other way. Most kids we know who have had issues have a parent in the background smiling and talking about how sweet Jonny or Jane is, as the other parents looked on in horror at the kids behavior. Remember that kid in K who pushed others down? Well he’s know at BS tearing down graduation tents.

I thought it was telling that even some of the MALE students thought the culture was toxic for females. That’s unusual.

Also: The teacher in the lawsuit was there for 18 years. Most “low performers” don’t last that long…

Finally: The question isn’t whether the rule against misbehavior prior to graduation is too harsh. If it is, they should absolutely get rid of it. But it just isn’t cool to have said rule and then not enforce it.

My son took a long hard look at Deerfield, and almost ended up matriculating there. But in the end he decided upon a different school. We’ve visited the Deerfield campus several times and I was quite surprised to read the article. I never sensed any disparity between the males and females on campus. In fact during all of our campus visits, we felt that the administration went out of their way to show a balanced view.

Does Deerfield have student body presidents? If so, does anyone know what percentage of them have been female in the past few years?