As many of you know, a year ago Poly Prep reached a settlement with survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Coach Phil Foglietta during his tenure at Poly from 1966-1991. We believe this settlement was an important step in an ongoing healing process for our community. With Poly’s spring term well underway, we would like to further this process with an important message.
First and foremost, on behalf of Poly Prep Country Day School, we offer our deepest apologies to the survivors of Coach Foglietta’s abuse. We also apologize to their families and to anyone else who may have suffered in some manner as the result of his horrific misconduct. We recognize that sexual abuse is, and always has been, a terrible crime that leaves permanent scars.
In retrospect, when Poly compelled Coach Foglietta to retire in 1991, the school should have investigated Foglietta’s actions more thoroughly, sought to identify his victims, and immediately reported the results to the appropriate authorities. Poly should not have sanctioned, implicitly or explicitly, the 1991 dinner honoring the coach, nor should Poly have waited until 2002 to reach out to our community and offer counseling services. Although Poly was the defendant in civil litigation relating to Coach Foglietta’s crimes for much of the 2002-2012 period, the school should still have communicated more frequently, more openly, and more empathetically with our community during this period. We recognize that these failures increased the pain of the survivors and delayed the healing process, and we apologize for this. We also apologize to our alumni whose memories of Poly have been tarnished by these regrettable events.
Although we know that this apology is only the most recent step on a long road to healing and reconciliation, we also want to assure our community that we are absolutely committed to creating an environment at Poly today (and for the future) that is as free as humanly possible from any abuse, harassment, hazing, or bullying for each and every student. Indeed, our understanding of what the survivors experienced while they attended Poly has led us to dramatically expand Poly’s policies and procedures for preventing abuse. We believe these rigorous reforms are among the most meaningful actions the school can take to acknowledge past wrongs and honor the survivors’ suffering.
For the past two years, a committee including Poly faculty, students, alumni, administrators, and outside experts has worked hard to design and implement a comprehensive set of policies that are detailed on our website and posted on prominent signage throughout the school. (For more information about our new policies, please visit our website here.) In addition, at the request of our alumni survivors, we appointed three additional alumni to our Board of Trustees last winter.
We have also instituted new reporting mechanisms for anyone in the Poly community who might be affected by—or have knowledge of—abuse at our school. These include a new 1-866 “Say Stop!” Hotline and a Trustee Tele-Reporting Hotline. We have made it absolutely clear that no one should fear retaliation or retribution for coming forward, anonymously if necessary, to make a report.
Other school-wide prevention measures involving all faculty, coaches, and staff include: required annual training on our new policies; a New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ certification in “identifying and reporting child abuse and maltreatment;” and mandatory criminal background checks before hiring.
For students, the presence of a clinical psychologist (on our Dyker Heights campus) and two full-time school nurses (one on each campus) with training to recognize signs of sexual abuse—and with access to the Headmaster or the Board for reporting suspected cases—provides strong additional safeguards. Moreover, Poly conducts annual, age-appropriate abuse prevention training for students, and they participate in prevention initiatives during advisory, health and wellness programs, and character education curricula. We emphasize personal safety in the home, school, community, and on the Internet, discuss concrete examples of policy violations, and review strategies for self-protection and the protection of others.
To help ensure continued progress in preventing abuse, we now administer an anonymous survey of all graduating seniors to uncover incidents of abuse (in any form) that might have occurred during their time at Poly. (For a fuller description of our programming, please view Poly's article on this topic, published in our parent and alumni e-newsletters during November 2013, here.)
These are all important initiatives, but we recognize that policies and procedures alone cannot prevent abuse. We need the ongoing vigilance and participation of every member of the Poly community. With your help, we will continue to heal the wounds of the past, learn from our mistakes, and ensure that now, and in the years to come, Poly will be true to its promise of fostering “mind, body, and—above all—character,” both in word and in deed.
David B. Harman P’04, ‘06, Headmaster
Scott M. Smith ’75, P’14, Chairman of the Board of Trustees