The president of the private Maryland high school that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attended sent a letter to parents, faculty and alumni on Friday saying the school has been soul-searching in the wake of sexual assault allegations against its famous alum.
“There is no denying that this is a challenging time for a lot of reasons,” Rev. James Van Dyke, president of Georgetown Prep, wrote in the letter, which was published on the school’s website. “It is a time for us to continue to evaluate our school culture, as we do each day, and to think deeply and long about what it means to be ‘men for others,’ what the vaunted Prep ‘brotherhood’ is really about.”
The letter does not mention Kavanaugh by name.
“It is a time to continue our ongoing work with the guys on developing a proper sense of self and a healthy understanding of masculinity, in contrast to many of the cultural models and caricatures that they see,” he continued. “And it is a time to talk with them honestly and even bluntly about what respect for others, especially respect for women and other marginalized people means in very practical terms — in actions and in words. We are keenly aware that they are young men — adolescents — and that these lessons are often hard to learn because they ask young men to move beyond their natural insecurities and self-concern and to push beyond what is presumed in so much of popular culture. But we know it is vital.”
Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist, says was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in the early 1980s at a house party in suburban Maryland. She was about 15 years old at the time of the alleged incident and a student at Holton-Arms, a private all-girls school in Bethesda, Md.; Kavanaugh, now 53, was about 17 and a student at nearby Georgetown Prep, an all-boys Jesuit school.
Ford graduated from Holton-Arms in 1984. Kavanaugh graduated from Georgetown Prep in 1983.
According to Ford’s account, Kavanaugh and his friend, who were “stumbling drunk,” forced her into a room at the party and he “pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.”
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford said.
Kavanaugh has “categorically and unequivocally” denied the allegations.
After Ford went public, several women who attended D.C.-area high schools around the time of the alleged incident described a culture of heavy drinking and drug use among students there. Mark Judge, the friend who Ford says was in the room during the alleged assault, has written two memoirs about his heavy drinking during that period. (In his 1997 memoir, “Wasted,” Judge writes about a “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who throws up in a car and passes out drunk.) Judge says he has no recollection of the incident Ford alleges.
“At raucous house parties and drunken beach vacations, boys from Georgetown Prep and other all-male academies would meet up with students from nearby all-girl private schools like Stone Ridge, Holy Cross, Georgetown Visitation and the non-sectarian Holton-Arms School,” the Associated Press reported this week. “Binge drinking was a routine part of the social scene, with minimal adult supervision.”
In a 2015 speech to the Columbus School of Law, Kavanaugh made a veiled reference to the school’s hard-partying reputation.
“What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep,” he said. “That’s been a good thing for all of us.”
Van Dyke admitted it has “been tough to see the caricature that we have been painted with by some: that we are somehow elitist, privileged, uncaring.”
“That we are elite, we cannot deny,” he wrote. “Every student who comes here is chosen for his personal potential regardless of financial need, and every member of the faculty and staff is chosen precisely because we think they will help to build a good and responsible and caring community for our students.
“That we are privileged, we also cannot deny,” he continued. “Generations of visionary Prep alumni and friends have helped to build excellent facilities for classes and for athletics and have underwritten our retreat and service and arts programs.”
The school, which was established in 1789, has dozens of notable alumni, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill and former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd. (Both Cashman and Bidwill signed a July letter from more than 150 alumni in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination.)
But Van Dyke took issue with the idea that Georgetown Prep students are entitled.
“We are not entitled,” he wrote. “One of the most important lessons we strive to live and to teach our students is an ethic of service and compassion and solidarity with those in need.”
When news of the allegations against Kavanaugh first surfaced last week, 65 women who say they knew him in high school signed a letter addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating he “has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”
In response, more than 600 women who attended Holton Arms have signed a letter in support of Ford.
“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” reads a draft of letter, which was also signed by the actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, class of 1979. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”
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