December 19, 2017
My name is Mary Jane Perryman, and I worked as a Spanish teacher at Presentation High School from August 1994 to July 2015. During that time, I was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of three different employees. Each of these men held positions of trust which afforded them close proximity to students in an intimate setting. All of these allegations, based on my understanding, were reported, in accordance with the training and instruction that we received, only to Presentation’s administration and counseling department. Based on my knowledge, none of these allegations were reported to the police or Child Protection Services.
By not following mandated reporting laws, I believe the administration and counseling department responded to these incidents by placing a higher priority on the school’s reputation, thereby putting thousands of students at risk, not only at Presentation, but at every institution where these teachers were later employed.
One incident involved an English teacher who was involved in a sexual relationship with a student who worked with him on a school project. Although this teacher left Presentation, he went on to teach at a nearby school, suggesting that there was no police report filed.
Another incident involved a Community Involvement staff member who made romantic overtures to a student enrolled in the club. This teacher left, came back briefly, and left again. He was even permitted to chaperone my daughter’s trip to Washington DC the summer following his departure. This staff member has been seen campus visiting and socializing with colleagues.
The third incident involved a religion teacher who allegedly became romantically involved with a senior student. Many students shared their concerns to me. I relayed this information to the department chair with the expectation that she would convey it to administration. The next day, this department chair told me that she reported this information to Principal Mary Miller, who in turn told her “Mary Jane needs to stop talking about this.” The religion teacher was allowed to finish the school year and, based on what I saw and heard, maintained a warm relationship with school officials and even attended the end-of-the-year party following his departure.
Up until 2013, staff was not formally trained as to how to report allegations of abuse other than the mandate that either the counseling department or administration handle all concerns, even in the case of calling 911 for medical emergencies.
In 2013, a representative from Child Protective Services attended a faculty meeting to provide instructions for mandated reporting. Based on what I heard, the counseling department objected to this training, but ultimately relented under pressure by CPS. Even after this instruction, however, it remained clear to me that the administration and counseling department wanted to exercise control over all reports. In other words, our instruction was to make all reports of suspected abuse only to counseling or administration.
In a 2014 staff meeting, an attorney addressed the topic of “the thin bright line” that marks appropriate student-teacher relationships and provided recommendations as to how to promote that line with staff and the student body. However, no measures were taken; on the contrary, after the attorney left, the principal dismissed much of the information and made it clear that close student-teacher relationships “are what makes Presentation unique.”
In my view, the Presentation administration has not followed mandated reporting laws. Further, based on my experience, they have not sent a clear message that sexual misconduct by an employee will not be tolerated. Instead, it seemed to me that teachers and staff who engage in abuse can visit our school, receive warm greetings, and go on to enjoy positions in other schools.
I am speaking out today because I care deeply for the Presentation community and want to ensure all young women are safe.