Head of School Margarita Curtis announced on January 28 that retired math teacher Peter Hindle, who worked at Deerfield for forty-four years, has been accused of sexual contact with a former student, and that the school is conducting an investigation regarding the alleged abuse. Dr. Curtis said that the investigation is slated to conclude at the end of the month, and she plans to address further concerns and questions in a follow-up announcement.
“It’s my hope that the strong and meaningful relationships that are forged here are not going to be undermined by this situation,” said Dr. Curtis, “but I do think it is a time to show honesty and humility, and to admit that very good people and great institutions can also make mistakes.” Dr. Curtis said that she hopes the incident does not mar any trust between current students and faculty, and that students can still feel safe at Deerfield.
Deerfield has applied a policy of transparency concerning the alleged event and posted a letter on the website for reporters and alumni to refer to.
“I think people will trust us more if we are fully open regarding the events that transpired, and acknowledge that inappropriate behaviors took place,” said Dr. Curtis. “Deerfield is a strong community, and I don’t think this will undermine our sense of community. I would say that it will make us pay more attention to the importance of boundaries.”
Moving forward, Dr. Curtis said that she hopes this incident will serve as a learning experience, and she sees the event as an opportunity to improve employee training and establish distinct lines with what is and is not appropriate in faculty-student relationships.
“Part of the issue,” she said, “is how to renew our efforts to clarify for students what is appropriate regarding student-faculty relationships, and establishing boundaries without being paranoid. We want to continue to have a warm and welcoming community.”
When asked about the events and Mr. Hindle, Head of Communications David Thiel withheld any comment, wanting to maintain the privacy of the investigation, as well as that of the victim and the accused.
“We have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from alumni, many expressing deep grief,” continued Dr. Curtis. “Many alumni have supported our transparency and approach, but they are also very sad that someone they admired did harm to someone else.”
Despite the policy of transparency, the school hopes to preserve the privacy of both the victim and the accused. “But, until the investigation is completed, it serves no one’s interests – not the victim’s, not the accused and not the Academy’s – to speculate or comment beyond the letter,” continued Dr. Curtis. She concluded her statement by saying, “Our policy has been to decline to comment until the investigation is finished.”