When I heard about Mr. O’Donnell’s abrupt resignation from Deerfield last August, like many other students, I was intrigued. It seemed too timely to be a coincidence, considering Ms. O’Donnell’s departure at the end of the prior year.
After a bit of searching, I soon discovered that Ms. O’Donnell had filed a pending federal lawsuit against Deerfield. I located the public court document online and found serious allegations—some of which described our school administration as dismissive of complaints of sexual assault and hostile to women and girls. Regardless of the veracity of the allegations, it seemed clear I needed to report on it.
For the past four weeks, I have spent countless hours interviewing dozens of people, including many former students, and going through more than one hundred pages of court documents. I doggedly pursued every single lead as far as it would take me, determined not to shy away from asking difficult or uncomfortable questions. While many of the parties I interviewed are not quoted directly in the article, every perspective I heard was important in better informing my reporting. If I was going to write an article discussing topics of this magnitude, it had to be done right.
It is important to acknowledge that the Scroll is not an officially independent newspaper. All of our operations are paid for by the Academy, and an article like this that draws publicity towards such serious allegations against current administrators is unprecedented for our newspaper. But Deerfield has stated that they want the Scroll to remain uncensored, and this has been a chance to witness that in action.
I assure you that I have maintained total independence in my reporting and have strived to portray the facts without bias. While the article was proofread by the Scroll faculty advisors and my co-editor, every word in it comes directly from me. As a journalist, my role is not to serve as judge or insert my own opinion, but to present the facts and trust you, as a thoughtful reader, to draw your own conclusions.
This article has likely been the most personally taxing project I have ever taken on. Both sides are contentious, tied up in a legal battle that will likely impact Deerfield for years to come, and in my reporting, I have inserted myself into the middle of the conflict. In talking with both the O’Donnells and the administration, in addition to working with Scroll advisors and editors, I have had to listen to and acknowledge many different opinions while staying true to my mission: to inform the community about newsworthy information that impacts all of us, even if it is uncomfortable to talk about.
This news might be difficult to bear for many. Indeed, there was a lack of consensus with my co- editor about the publication of this article due to her concerns that it could negatively impact certain members of our community.
I wish no member of this community harm. On the contrary, the reason we decided to publish this article is because we believe our community becomes stronger when we lean into uncomfortable discourse. These conversations may be difficult or even painful in the short term, but in the long term, everyone benefits when our community is better informed.
I call upon everyone here to embrace these sensitive topics with maturity and strength. The real test of a school’s courage is our ability to look in the mirror and be transparent about our flaws. Deerfield is a community defined by each and every one of us. Let us strive to improve the place that we all call home.