Community Accountability Investigation

In the fall of 2020, the Cate Board of Trustees commissioned an independent investigation into incidents of sexual misconduct by employees of Cate School. We made a promise to conduct a thorough third-party investigation, motivated by our drive to learn as much as we could about the School’s past. We are writing now to share those findings.  

To the members of the Cate community who were harmed, we are outraged by these acts and deeply sorry for the pain you endured while under the School’s care. In a close community such as ours, the bonds created between people on the Mesa are meant to provide comfort and nurture growth, not to inflict trauma. This was where we failed. We honor the survivors for the courage they have shown in coming forward to recount their painful experiences, and we thank those witnesses who joined them in helping us to understand the full nature of what occurred. It is through these contributions that we, as a community, are able to face some of Cate’s saddest history together, begin the healing process from the wounds inflicted, and use the knowledge gained to make our School ever safer for our students.

Read the Board’s Letter Read the Report Corrective Actions FAQs Community Outreach

Policies, Procedures, and Protections

Student safety and wellbeing is of the utmost importance at Cate. The following items outline both the School’s posture as well as action items from the last year that support the intention of creating a happy, healthy Mesa for all.

In the event that a student is made to feel uncomfortable by remarks or behaviors of a sexual nature from another student, faculty, or staff member, they are instructed to immediately seek the assistance of a trusted faculty member, the Sexual Harassment Information and Resource Team (SHIRT) Liaisons, or speak directly to a member of SHIRT.

When a complaint is made, members of SHIRT investigate the incident, follow all mandated reporting requirements, and develop the appropriate course of action. Potential responses include mediation and counseling, education, or disciplinary action up to, and including, termination. Even in the absence of a formal complaint, SHIRT may convene if an incident comes to light in which school standards of behavior were not met. If you have questions about SHIRT, please contact Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations and SHIRT Lead Sandi Pierce at sandi_pierce@cate.org.

All incidents of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to family violence must, by law, be reported to Child Protective Services. Sexual abuse includes any sexual advances or sexual contact made by an adult with a minor. At any time, a student has the right to retain the service of an attorney and/or report an incident of sexual harassment or abuse directly to the police, Child Welfare Services, or the Head of School. Additionally, we partner with Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) to provide education and support services to our students and faculty.

Download the Incident Reporting Protocol

All school faculty and staff are mandated reporters and receive training on their obligations annually. In the event that a student is made to feel uncomfortable by remarks or behaviors of a sexual nature from another student, faculty member, or staff member, Cate has several avenues for current students to report sexual misconduct.

  1. Seek immediate assistance from a trusted faculty member, counseling services, or the MOD (Monitor of the Day). All students have the MOD phone number programmed in their cell phones. It is answered 24 hours a day and students know to call it first in any type of emergency situation.
  2. Contact a SHIRT (Sexual Harassment Information and Resource Team) Committee Liaison either directly or collectively at SHIRT@cate.org. Please see https://www.cate.org/about/investigation/ for details on the SHIRT process.
  3. Contact Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations and SHIRT Lead Sandi Pierce at sandi_pierce@cate.org.
  4. Call STESA (Standing Together to End Sexual Assault), the confidential, independent crisis hotline at 805.564.3696.
  5. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline via phone at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or online at https://hotline.rainn.org/online

Cate utilizes a tiered approach to well-being. All students receive explicit instruction on healthy relationships, consent, boundaries, mindfulness practices, drugs and alcohol, and other related topics through a variety of settings including the Human Development curriculum, residential life, advisory, grade-specific programming, counseling department programming, and challenge-specific programming.

This year, Cate has taken the following specific measures around student resources and training:

  • Partnered with Standing Together Against Sexual Assault (STESA) to provide training for students and faculty. Both trainings defined sexual assault, explored myths and facts, and outlined how to get support and be supportive of sexual assault survivors.
  • Human Development, in partnership with the Campus Life Committee, created curriculum on Cate-specific mental health support, coping strategies, social conditioning, and gender roles, sexual health, and consent
  • Human Development partnered with Planned Parenthood to provide sex education
  • Prefect and TA training on healthy boundaries through the Counseling Office.

If you have questions about the student-specific trainings and resources, please contact Director of Campus Life Erin Hansen at erin_hansen@cate.org.

Key Sections of the Parent/Student Handbook


Because providing a positive and productive environment for all members of the community is a fundamental goal of the School, sexual harassment or any behavior that adversely impacts the experience of a student at Cate will not be tolerated.

All adults in the community receive:

  • Bi-annual anti-harassment training through Lawroom Online Training (now Everfi).
  • Annual mandated reporter training through Everfi.
  • Periodic presentations by experts in the field covering topics associated with student mental and physical health and well-being.

Additionally, this year:

  • Faculty received training through our partnership with STESA about sexual assault. The program included its definition, myths and facts, and background on survivors’ experiences. The faculty training provided practical tools as to how to handle disclosures and legal and medical options including mandated reporting.
  • Student-facing faculty received Youth Mental Health First Aid training through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Faculty were provided language and resources to better understand the most recent data on youth mental health and specific training and practice in identifying and de-escalating in both crisis and non-crisis circumstances.

If you have questions about the faculty-specific trainings and resources, please contact Assistant Head of School Sandi Pierce at sandi_pierce@cate.org


We are consistently looking for opportunities for students to communicate the challenges they see as most pressing, learn skills for self-advocacy such as digital citizenship, productive dialogues, and partner with relevant faculty and counselors to help address those challenges. Our Student Senate, student clubs, prefects, and teaching assistants are both liaisons between adults and students and agents of change who regularly collaborate with school leaders.

This year, students and faculty collaborated to :

  • Explore the way we prepare students in advance of challenging topics and debrief when a challenging moment occurs
  • Develop more avenues for communication about campus life and student support via the weekly “The Week Ahead” email and more comprehensive updates via “In the Loop”
  • Clarify reporting protocols (how students access help)
  • Set the tone for community life with the key focuses kindness and compassion

Our Counseling Office in partnership with students launched a number of group sessions.

  • In collaboration with UCSB’s Healing Center and the Black Student Union at Cate, the Counseling Office offered BIPOC Healing Circles. The purpose of the circles is to create a safe, supportive, confidential space for Black, Indigenous, Students of Color to talk about their experiences at Cate and beyond. Participants practiced stress reduction skills to address the challenges of being a BIPOC student with the goal of promoting self-love, positivity, and healing.
  • Additionally, we launched the Wellness Project, started by UCSB student Olivia McLeese, a small gathering for female-identifying students to foster meaningful connections with each other.

For questions about student and faculty collaboration, please contact Director of Campus Life Erin Hansen at erin_hansen@cate.org.


The School’s and the Board’s commitment to the safety of the students is our top priority. Providing training, education, and the resources to support healthy relationships is not enough. In support of the School’s continued efforts to make Cate a leader in best practices around sexual misconduct prevention, the School is establishing the Committee on Community Care and Accountability (CCA) as a standing committee of the Board. Originally formed in 2020 to initiate the independent investigation and to manage the implementation of any corrective measures issued by the Board upon review of the investigative report, the CCA’s charge will include the following going forward:

  • Providing assurance that incidents of sexual misconduct that come before the School’s SHIRT committee are addressed in an appropriate, thorough, timely, and equitable manner. The importance of the privacy of parties involved in any SHIRT proceeding is paramount to ensure confidence in the system, and all protocols will reflect those protections.
  • Working with the Administration to ensure the School is following best in practice protocols and procedures that provide a safe and healthy environment for the Cate community as a whole.
  • Coordinating further education and training for Trustees around the School’s sexual misconduct policies and best practices in survivor-centered and trauma-informed care.

Here is the current list of the Trustees on the committee.


For immediate crisis intervention, general information, and resources:

  • RAINN: Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or online.rainn.org.
  • STESA: Access STESA’s crisis hotline at 805-564-3696

Contact Leadership

Head of School Ben Williams

Assistant Head of School Charlotte Brownlee ’85

Board President
Lisa Stanson ’92

Contact the CCA

Cate Today

Throughout the 2021-22 academic year, the School’s Corrective Action Response Committee (CARE) and the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Community Care and Accountability (CCA) have worked in parallel and coordinated paths to ensure that the Corrective Measures established following the release of the Oppenheimer Investigative Group report are successfully implemented.

CARE Update



SHIRT and CCA Collaboration
As part of the Corrective Measures outlined by the Board following the release of the Oppenheimer Investigative Group report, a bridge was established to share information between the School’s SHIRT (Sexual Harassment Information Resource Team) and the Board’s CCA (Committee on Community Care and Accountability) to provide oversight and assurance that incidents of sexual misconduct that come before SHIRT are addressed in an appropriate, thorough, timely, and equitable manner.

The partnership is collaborative and comprehensive and ensures the privacy of students coming before the SHIRT Committee (the school body which oversees investigations of student sexual misconduct and ultimately deliberates on appropriate school responses), while reserving the right to share information on individual cases with trustee partners.

The CCA’s oversight is designed to give the Board confidence that the School’s processes are being adhered to and that laws are complied with while maintaining the necessary standards of privacy and confidentiality that protect students.

Board of Trustee Trainings
The Board has undergone education around the School’s sexual misconduct policies and best practices in survivor-centered and trauma-informed care and received survivor sensitivity training.

  1. The Survivor Experience: A licensed clinical psychologist delivered training on: the impacts of childhood sexual abuse and the survivor experience, identifying types of trauma, challenges in decisions to report trauma, responses and symptoms for survivors, and trauma-informed care for students and staff in a school environment.
  2. Cate Students Today: Elsa Granados, Executive Director of Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA), educated the Board on their partnership with Cate including: education and training to staff, faculty, and students as well as details around their vital STESA Hotline for confidential reporting by Cate community members. The Board also learned about their Shifting Boundaries Program which works to prevent dating violence and sexual harassment amongst youth by raising awareness about gender norms and promoting healthy relationships.

School Programming Assessment
The Board has been regularly updated on the extensive work being done by the School’s recently formed CARE committee established to implement the Corrective Measures based on the findings of the OIG report. The CCA and Board will continue to support, follow and monitor the progress made by the School around these continued efforts.


Our Partnerships

In order to continue the important work of creating a safe environment on the Mesa, Cate has established partnerships with local and national level organizations to provide resources, training, and support to students, faculty, and alumni. Learn about these partnerships below.

Cate is strengthening its partnership with Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA). Formerly the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, STESA, a local affiliate of RAINN, provides confidential counseling and support services to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones.

  • Crisis Hotline: In cases where a student is uncomfortable using established reporting protocols to share an experience by approaching a peer or adult at the School, Cate students are encouraged to access STESA’s crisis hotline 805-564-3696. Trained advocates are available 24-hours a day to provide confidential counseling and information. While all caller identities, histories and experiences are protected, STESA experts are mandated reporters and are legally obligated to contact Child Welfare Services in the case of child abuse. This partnership and access to STESA is widely shared with the student body through Cate’s residential life and health and wellness programs.
  • Best-Practice Guidance: The School has engaged the victim advocates at STESA to further review and enhance our existing procedures around reporting protocols. While Cate School used NAIS and TABS guidelines and outside advisors to perform a full review and overhaul of all policies and protocols around sexual misconduct, STESA’s victim-centric approach will provide additional expert advice that can only enhance the current program. It is the responsibility of the School to provide a safe environment that encourages students to report potential abuse or boundary-crossing behavior and to have a system in place that allows for a thorough, thoughtful and respectful process and response to all allegations. STESA’s guidance and continued evaluation of our program will assist the School in maintaining best practices.
  • Education and Training: For the past two years Cate has worked with STESA to deliver trainings for faculty, staff and students around topics including maintaining healthy boundaries, sexual harassment prevention, consent and reporting standards. STESA will continue to work with the School to further educate students, adults and families of the Cate community and will also work with the Board to provide education around sexual misconduct prevention and response.

Cate Therapy Fund: In an effort to support our survivors, Cate School has established a therapy fund to assist alumni and former students desiring reimbursement for therapy related to sexual abuse during their time at Cate. We have engaged RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to operate the dedicated Cate School Therapy Fund Hotline, and provide confidential support and information on how to access the fund.

The funds will be distributed through an independent, third-party claims administrator, and neither RAINN nor the claims administrator will provide the School or the Board with any personally identifying information about those who call the hotline, or who access the fund. Additionally, alumni and former students who were harmed by adults while at Cate can access these services but are not required to participate in the School’s investigation.

The fund has been formally established and the Cate School Therapy Fund Hotline, operated by RAINN, launched on Monday, October 4. Additional information for the Cate School Therapy Fund can be found here.

We recognize that, for survivors, even our outreach can cause emotional difficulty. For immediate crisis intervention, and general information and resources, available 24/7, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or online.rainn.org.

Cate School Therapy Fund