Statement from Junipero Serra High School President Lars Lund - May 16, 2014 In light of yesterday’s media coverage, there are three key misconceptions I would like to address today to set the record straight. First, it is imperative for the public to know that, when this situation arose last year, the students who took the photos and video were expelled. This was an unconscionable act, and they are no longer students at Serra. Second, on March 19, Ms. Bohnert signed a contract, in which she agreed in good faith to return to Serra in the fall. In her note to the administration, she commented that she was “excited about returning to Serra,” and inquired about her teaching load. Today, in light of the serious accusations that Ms. Bohnert has made, we are mystified that she has signed the contract and would take this action. The past incidents to which she referred in yesterday’s news stories were promptly and professionally addressed by Serra administrators. We have worked hard at Serra to create a safe, nurturing, educational environment according to the direction of best practices and continue to do so. We take these allegations seriously. However, for legal reasons, we cannot go into any other details as we move forward to defend against her allegations. Third, our school administrators acted swiftly with regard to last year’s incident in May of 2013, as soon as we discovered what was happening. The police investigation was initiated when we called them early in the morning of May 17. Today, I would like to walk through what actually happened on the afternoon of May 16, 2013--exactly one year ago today--it was brought to our attention that a few of our students had taken inappropriate pictures and/or videos of some of our teachers. Serra administrators immediately began an aggressive and thorough investigation of this matter, which continued well into the evening. At 7:30 a.m. the very next morning, we reported this matter to the San Mateo Police Department and requested its assistance. We relentlessly continued our investigation, sharing information with SMPD officers (who were with us on campus on May 17 and through the week of May 20). Police officers also conducted interviews with students on our campus, and at police headquarters. We not only fully cooperated with the SMPD, but we also expelled the six students who were responsible for these deeply offensive acts. In addition, we suspended six other students who had forwarded the photos by using their cell phones. The immediate shock over this turn of events quickly turned to outrage, and a desire by the entire Serra community to bring those responsible to justice. We immediately informed the teachers who were affected by this, as well as our entire faculty and staff. The parent community was also informed via an email letter the afternoon of May 17, and was updated by a series of letters over the next several days. We held a student-body assembly on Tuesday, May 20 (Friday May 17 and Monday, May 19 were school holidays). All Serra students attended the mandatory special assembly that addressed the situation, outlined the legal ramifications of inappropriate texting and Internet activity. In addition, a San Mateo Police Lieutenant detailed the criminal consequences of taking and sending inappropriate images. We also asked the students for their help in our investigation. Our students were outraged and deeply upset by this incident. Students expressed a deep sense of concern and compassion for the teachers, and were very angry with the students who committed these horrible acts. We ended this assembly with a prayerful reflection on the standards and expectations we have attempted to instill over the years in our community. While it is true that many benefits have resulted with the internet and social media, this technology has proven to be a significant moral hazard for teenagers across our nation. For this reason, in the years prior to this incident, we offered several presentations on this topic to students, faculty and staff, and parents. This school year opened with a series of sessions which dealt with the events that came to light on May 16, as well as sessions regarding our expectations of our students’ behavior, and what it means to live out our community's core values. We held additional educational assemblies with our students on such topics as “Gender Respect and Sexism” and “Your Digital Footprint: Responsible Use of Social Media Websites.” After each of these sessions, teachers from every academic department led small group follow-up sessions. We are planning to conduct similar outreach and educational sessions for next school year as we see tremendous value in educating our students that this conduct or conduct like it is unacceptable. We are grateful that parents have entrusted their sons to Junipero Serra High School. Our primary mission is to help our students to become loving, respectful, and courageous men. The vast majority of Serra students are deeply good young men, who respect and appreciate their teachers, and who are striving to leading lives of faith, integrity and service. ADDITIONAL QUOTE FROM THE SAN MATEO POLICE DEPARTMENT ISSUED ON TUESDAY, MAY 14: “Upon being advised of the case, SMPD dedicated numerous resources to this investigation involving our Patrol and Detective Bureau assets. SMPD worked with the Serra High School staff who fully cooperated, to help police determine who was involved and who was culpable in this case. In follow- up to this incident, San Mateo PD and Serra High School faculty held meetings with the students and staff at Serra, warning them about activity such as this and the consequences and impacts to all involved.”
"Statement from Serra President Lars Lund-5-16-14.DOCX"