6. From parent of former student Jenny Estok
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not one to put my personal stuff out there on social media, so what I have to say here took many months of thought. My families’ need for closure and to be at peace has overwhelmed our lives for much too long. For some, this subject may seem unimportant and that’s okay, but I am hopeful that some will recognize toxic dynamics and work to make the necessary changes required for healthy relationships.
As most children do, mine participated in extracurricular activities. They dabbled in swimming, baseball, soccer etc., until they found what they truly enjoyed. That passion was musical theater. My daughter spent over eight years honing her skills and my son has been at it for about five. Early on, I became actively involved on the creative end because I spent so much time there. I found that I too had a passion to create. My Husband was tired of never seeing his family, so he learned the art of photography to be part of it all. My kids built many relationships over this time frame, as well as my husband and myself. We became a family of sorts with many other wonderful, creative people. We found an organization that provided a platform for all of us. As with anything, it wasn’t perfection. There were bumps and bruises along the way. Mostly normal, developmental bumps and bruises. This past December all of that came crashing down.
At the direction of a student and a former student of this organization, a much younger student was coerced into illegally recording conversations in my home between my daughter and her friends. The recording was sent to another student who sent it to the Artistic Director. He was angry and deliberately misconstrued the content of the recording and demanded apologies from all students and parents. He stated in another text message that he no longer felt that he should have to teach my daughter and her friends, and he wanted to expel one child unless the Board of Directors said otherwise. My family along with two other families decided to ask for a meeting with the Board of Directors. We were granted the meeting. The new President of the Board stated unequivocally that our children were not expelled. They had already listened to the recordings and felt that there was absolutely no cause to remove them. They listened to our children’s statements regarding unprofessional behaviors by staff and bullying by students that occurred at their organization and promised an investigation into the matter. The Board stated that our children were free to return without any retribution. The Board President gave us her phone number and told us to call her immediately if there was any retribution. As we waited for resolution, the next semester was about to begin. Our children wanted to attend but were fearful of adults and certain students. The Board of Directors gave them three options 1.) They could return and if they felt uncomfortable taking the Artistic Directors’ class, that they would provide another teacher and any class they took would have an additional teacher present. 2.) They could wait to return until the investigation was complete and a adequate resolution was reached. 3.) They could choose not to return. (if they chose this, the Board wanted to have an exit meeting with them). One child chose not to return at all, and two others decided to await an adequate resolution. The Board of Directors took three months to complete their investigation into the matter. For my daughter and the other student, this was their senior year. They had taken almost every class offered consistently for eight years. Their last year doing the thing they loved at an organization they grew up in was essentially gone. Established friendships were gone.
The Board’s resolution stated that the situation was mostly of a personal nature and outside their jurisdiction. They continued by stating that any actions that involved staff was handled internally and could not be divulged due to employee privacy. They stated our kids were free to return as normal and if they were uncomfortable, they offered to provide mediation free of charge. At no point were the students who perpetrated the violation of privacy held to account. It has since come to my attention that this was not the first-time conversations were recorded and the Artistic Director was aware of it and did not inform us or the parent of the child who was recording. It is my understanding that the Board of Directors became aware of the other recording during their investigation and never informed us. I want to believe in humanity. I want to believe in accountability. I want to believe in a hierarchy that is capable. It is getting harder and harder. This ordeal has deeply hurt my family in so many ways. Trust is hard to come by now. Children need to be able to depend on adults to do the right thing. We are the example. Take what you need or want from our story. It sure was cathartic to get it off my chest.