April 5, 2019

Dear Branson Community,

In spring 2018, we wrote to inform you that Branson had launched an independent investigation into any past incidents of sexual misconduct by faculty and staff following disturbing reports of sexual abuse by a former Branson employee from three alumnae of the 1970s. We pledged to you that we would conduct this investigation with the utmost compassion and transparency, and it is in that spirit that we are writing today to share the findings of the investigation in full, as painful as they are.  


First and foremost, we offer our deepest apologies to the survivors who suffered from sexual misconduct by Branson faculty or staff. As an institution, we acknowledge our failing: Branson did not do enough to protect you and keep you safe while you were in the school's care. We commend your courage to come forward and share your experiences of past sexual mistreatment because in doing so, we believe that you are helping to make Branson a stronger and safer community for our students.

For those of you who came forward as witnesses to events from years past and shared your knowledge with the investigators, we thank you for your compassion and empathy for the survivors, and for your commitment to making this investigation as thorough as it was. With your assistance, we are now able to acknowledge past transgressions by faculty or staff, which we hope will be of some solace to our affected alumni.

As this news travels through our community, we remind you of Branson's newly articulated but long held core values: courage, kindness, honor and purpose. Please act with kindness, and respect the dignity and privacy of the survivors. Heartfelt conversations among alumni to reflect on the past and process this report in meaningful ways are encouraged, and will help our community heal.

We ask that you be mindful about how these incidents are discussed on social media because doing so may only deepen the pain of the survivors, their families and classmates.

Summary of the Process and Key Findings

In May 2018, the Board of Trustees retained Nancy Kestenbaum and Clara Shin, attorneys from the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into any reports from students of adult sexual misconduct by Branson faculty and staff. The Board chose Ms. Kestenbaum and Ms. Shin because of their expertise in conducting independent investigations of this nature in both corporate and school settings, and because Branson had no prior relationship with the Covington firm. Ms. Kestenbaum, a former federal prosecutor and nationally recognized criminal defense lawyer, led the investigations into sexual misconduct at Choate Rosemary Hall, The Brearley School, and for the CBS Board of Directors. Ms. Shin co-chairs Covington's global commercial litigation practice group and recently helped to lead an investigation of Uber's corporate culture.

After the announcement of the investigation on June 12, 2018, Ms. Kestenbaum and Ms. Shin set up a confidential hotline and email address, and we encouraged anyone with information regarding adult sexual misconduct over the course of Branson's history to contact the Covington team. The Covington attorneys had full access to Branson's records and to current and former Branson employees to support their investigation. Over the past 10 months, Ms. Kestenbaum and Ms. Shin interviewed nearly 100 individuals, including alumni and former and current faculty, staff and trustees. The Covington team reviewed over 2,000 documents.

Ms. Kestenbaum and Ms. Shin presented their report to the Board of Trustees on Wednesday evening. Yesterday, we shared with the survivors who had made themselves known to Ms. Mazzola that we would be releasing the report. Earlier today, we shared our intentions to release the full report with faculty and staff and also with our current students, and we now share the full report with you. The report contains sensitive and graphic material and is painful to read.


READ: Full Covington Report is Available Here

The Covington investigation found evidence of adult sexual misconduct over the past 40 years. In several instances when Branson faculty or administrators learned of the sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior, it is clear from the Covington Report that some matters should have been handled more swiftly, more thoroughly and with greater sensitivity to the students who were harmed.

Ms. Kestenbaum and Ms. Shin made the determination to name the three former employees and a volunteer who engaged in sexual misconduct towards students based on such factors as such whether the reports of sexual misconduct were corroborated, the strength of the evidence received, the existence of contemporaneous documentation, and the number of reports made about any particular individual. They named:


  • Rusty Taylor, Director of Athletics and soccer coach, in the late 1970s
  • Les Carroll, Director of Athletics, soccer and basketball coach, in the mid-to-late 1980s
  • Rich Manoogian, volunteer basketball manager and assistant coach, in the late 1980s and early 1990s
  • Alistair Grant, college counselor, in the early 2010s


Where appropriate, Ms. Kestenbaum and Ms. Shin also named certain senior administrators who learned during their tenure at Branson about possible sexual misconduct between Branson educators and students.

As we said in our June 12 letter, upon hearing from three of our alumni, Branson made reports with respect to Rusty Taylor to local law enforcement. Reports to law enforcement had been made previously by a student with respect to Rich Manoogian and by Branson with respect to Alistair Grant. Since receiving the Covington Report, we have made additional reports to local law enforcement about each of the four named individuals.

Covington did not receive any information about adult sexual misconduct toward current Branson students or reports that any current Branson employee engaged in sexual misconduct with any students.

Support for Survivors

We know that past transgressions can cause current pain and anguish. Caring for our alumni who were the victims of adult sexual abuse while students at Branson is very important to us. In July 2018, we created an independent therapy fund to provide support for survivors. We set this support system up through RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), a nationally recognized leading provider of sexual assault prevention and response services. RAINN set up a Branson-specific confidential line at 855-794-0545 to offer immediate crisis counseling and to provide a process to disburse funds to help pay for current therapy needs of survivors. Additional alumni who wish to access these services from RAINN are encouraged to call the number above.

Protecting Current and Future Branson Students

Branson is deeply committed to the well-being and safety of our students. One of the reasons to launch this investigation and reexamine Branson's past history of adult sexual abuse is to build and maintain a safer school environment moving forward and to make certain that our policies and procedures employ best practice. We also follow all relevant laws with regard to any allegations of child abuse, including informing Child Protective Services and local law enforcement as required by state law. We diligently check the fingerprints against the FBI criminal database using Live Scan, and references of each potential employee at Branson before they are hired, including faculty, staff and coaches. In addition, our faculty and staff regularly participate in mandated reporter, sexual harassment and abuse prevention training. In fall 2019, we will begin conducting that training at the commencement of each school year.

As a result of this investigation, Branson has examined its current practices to prevent sexual misconduct by athletic coaches, many of whom are not full-time employees of Branson. Currently, coaches undergo training through the MCAL, our sports league. Beginning in fall 2019, all coaches, coaching staff and athletic trainers, full or part-time, will be required to complete mandated reporter, sexual harassment and abuse prevention training through Branson in addition to the MCAL training.

Other preventative policies and procedures currently in place are listed below:


  • Branson has launched a webpage for "Community Wellness & Resources" that provides procedures for reporting abuse, resources for victims and our school's commitment to student safety and well-being:
  • In 2018, Branson's Code of Conduct for Faculty and Staff, which expanded on existing policies on appropriate boundaries for employee-student interactions, was sent to all parents and students, and published on our website and in student and employee handbooks. These handbooks are updated and shared with all employees and families prior to each school year.
  • Consent curriculum in 10th grade human development course
  • Consent conversations offered during lunch and flex block each week, beginning in fall 2015
  • Beginning in 2018-19, elective course on consent available to 11th and 12th graders
  • In fall 2018, rollout of a revised Branson Protocol for Reporting Sexual Abuse
  • During human development days, programming to address sexual harassment, abuse, assault, bullying, and discrimination
  • Beginning in fall 2018, all visitors to campus must provide identification and clear two national databases for sex offenders.


We also drew guidance from a joint NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools)/TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) task force which released a report in 2018 detailing best practices recommendations for schools to follow regarding the prevention and response on educator sexual misconduct. That report is posted here.

We acknowledge that coming forward to share experiences of past sexual abuse is extremely difficult and that there may still be alumni who have not yet reported adult sexual abuse that they experienced at Branson. Because the Covington investigation is now closed, in the event that any past student of Branson wishes to make a report of adult sexual abuse, the appropriate administrator to contact is Michelle Jones, Director of Human Resources, who can be reached at: 415-455-7126 or

* * *


The goals of this investigation were threefold: to examine and uncover any instances of sexual abuse at Branson throughout its history, to provide support to survivors who experienced sexual abuse while at Branson, and to make certain that we have the proper policies and procedures in place to ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the future.

Though the investigation is now concluded, we are more committed than ever to protecting the well being, health, and safety of our students. Branson fundamentally failed those students who were abused at the hands of their teachers and coaches, and once again, we offer our deepest apologies to the survivors, whose courage and strength is inspiring to all of us. We wish to thank everyone who participated in this difficult process. As challenging as this investigation has been to all members of our community, we truly believe that its outcome will make Branson a stronger, better, safer school.



Christina K. Mazzola

Head of School


Claudia Lewis

Chair, Board of Trustees

P.O. Box 887 Ross, CA 94957 ⋅ 415-454-3612 ⋅

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