January 31, 2019
To the Cheshire Academy Community:
In August we informed you that we had received troubling allegations from two former students regarding Robert Stephen Phillips, Jr., a Middle School faculty member at the Academy from 1967 to 1969. In addition to reporting these allegations to the police and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, we retained the Hartford law firm Cowdery & Murphy to conduct an investigation. Attorney James Cowdery, former Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, led the investigation, which has now been completed.
Cowdery & Murphy has concluded that, based on a preponderance of evidence, Mr. Phillips engaged in inappropriate sexual misconduct against the students who reported the misconduct. In addition, Cowdery & Murphy concluded that the School may have missed opportunities to appropriately address Mr. Phillip’s misconduct during his tenure as a faculty member and decades later when a survivor of his abuse communicated with the School to report his experiences.
It is painful to learn of the credible, corroborated accounts by our former students who experienced unconscionable misconduct and abuse by Mr. Phillips. We apologize with all our hearts to these courageous individuals and deeply regret that opportunities were missed to adequately address Mr. Phillip’s abuse five decades ago and to respond more empathetically to the survivors of these horrific experiences.
On several occasions over the last several years we have reached out to the Cheshire Academy community to encourage the reporting of any misconduct, no matter how many years ago it may have occurred. Please understand that the conclusion of this investigation only reinforces our desire to make sure that all our students, past and present, know that the school welcomes their engagement and considers them to be cherished members of our community.
Educating students in a nurturing environment has been central to Cheshire Academy’s mission throughout its history. The safety of our students is our highest priority, and we are in a strong position today to prevent and detect inappropriate behaviors in our school community. All faculty and staff are subject to robust background and reference checks. They participate in mandatory professional development emphasizing student safety, maintaining appropriate student-teacher relationships, boundaries, and reporting requirements. Clear policies and procedures are in place for students to report and the school to take action on any inappropriate sexual conduct.
We want to thank all those who contributed to this investigation, especially the survivors. We apologize again for the experiences they suffered and the pain that endures. The Academy is committed, as a family, to honestly addressing and learning from both the good and the bad of our 225-year history. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at a special email address of firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts, concerns and suggestions.
Head of School
Richard F. Cerrone ’67
Chair, Board of Trustees