1. From Lori Bass-Riley, former parent and volunteer
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
In 2020, my daughter was an active student in Stage Right. She had been good friends with another student, and had spent a great deal of time at the Artistic Director's household. The other student began to bully and push people out of her circle due to an issue that her father had with some of the students’ parents. She began harassing my daughter and convincing kids to stop talking to my daughter.
In the midst of this we had an incident with the Artistic Director where he kept our daughter after a class during a summer camp and proceeded to yell at her until she cried. Instead of taking action to console her, he stood in front of the security video camera in the room and yelled that he was doing nothing wrong because he was on camera then he stormed out of the room. Our daughter called us absolutely bawling. We received no phone call from the staff. We contacted the studio and asked to see the video. We were told that the camera had “accidentally" been turned off 30 minutes previous to the incident. We called the Artistic Director and he said he did not yell. I said that I had heard he swore at other students and he asked us how we could ever think he would do something like that.
We agreed to meet with the Artistic Director, the School Coordinator, and the General Manager to talk further about this. In the meeting we were told that our daughter had heard things incorrectly and that the Artistic Director had the best intentions. Our daughter became so concerned that the Artistic Director would be mad, she took the blame. When we said that we were uncomfortable that he used students to resolve conflicts he had with students and did not like that he texted students without the knowledge of parents, he and the School Coordinator said that was how they always dealt with student leaders. We stated that we were uncomfortable with that and to please include us on any text to our daughter.
During the summer and fall of 2020, the aforementioned student convinced a younger student to begin secretly recording students and submitting them to another student, who gave them to the Artistic Director. Things came to a head when the Artistic Director texted a board member who contacted the parents expressing he no longer felt comfortable teaching three students - one of whom was my daughter. The Artistic Director used the illegally recorded video as reason for our daughter's removal.
We and two other families went to the board to discuss not only this request by the Artistic Director, but to inform them of several concerns we had about inappropriate behavior and lack of policies. It took three months for the board to respond. This was part of their response:
“We have taken your concerns very seriously and Board members, independent reviewers and legal counsel have carefully examined each of them, considering numerous pieces of information. We have identified several areas where we can make adjustments and
improvements to our communication tools and to our processes. We appreciate your constructive suggestions. We have also had numerous discussions with our lead staff about our shared expectations for the operations of Stage Right and we will continue to partner with them to ensure that all students receive the top quality instruction and performance opportunities that we are highly regarded for.
We regret that you have experienced negative situations, but in our reviews we found that the majority of those incidents and interactions happened outside of our jurisdiction and the operations of Stage Right and instead occurred within social interactions and social relationships including some with members of our staff, but not related to their official duties.”
This was and is unacceptable to us. We had pulled our daughter out of programming in November of that year completely - previous to receiving the board’s response as more abusive behaviors came to light.