Curtis Institute of Music response to sexual misconduct claim: Don’t talk about it
The Curtis Institute of Music has asked alumni, parents, and students to not talk publicly about an Inquirer report that one of its most revered teachers sexually assaulted a student in the 1980s.
» UPDATE: Curtis Institute will review sexual assault policies after Inquirer story reports abuse
The Curtis Institute of Music has asked alumni, parents, and students to not talk publicly about a report that one of its most revered teachers sexually assaulted a student in the 1980s. In the article, published Thursday online by The Inquirer, violinist Lara St. John says she was abused by teacher Jascha Brodsky, then ignored by a Curtis administrator when she reported what had happened.
“Out of respect for all those involved, we request that you refrain from discussing this matter publicly, online, or on social media,” Curtis spokeswoman Patricia K. Johnson wrote in an email to the Curtis community shortly after the story was published.
One Curtis alumna who received the email early Thursday called it “nauseating.” The woman, who graduated in 1982 and asked to not be named, said it sent the wrong message to victims of sexual abuse — to stay silent. She said it is clear to her that when Curtis asked the recipients to refrain from talking about the article out “of respect for all those involved,” they were referring to only some of the participants.
"They're not talking about Lara St. John," she said. "They're talking about the people being accused."
Others — including more Curtis alumni who did not heed the school’s request — expressed outrage on social media, including dozens of comments that flooded St. John’s Facebook page.
“This is Curtis’s opportunity to show that they are truly concerned about students past, present and future by actually being open to admitting that wrongdoing happened and encouraging discussion around it,” Gloria Justen, a fellow violinist who also studied at Curtis, wrote. “I’m disappointed but not surprised at their instruction to hush this up.”
The article details St. John’s experiences and Curtis’ responses to her claim over several decades. Most recently, in 2013, the school commissioned a law firm to investigate. The resulting four-page report revealed that investigators only interviewed two administrators at the school, and that they never spoke to most of the key figures involved.
The Inquirer reported that four other women said that Brodsky pursued them sexually while they were Curtis students in the 1980s. Each asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.
» READ MORE: Violinist says she was abused, silenced as a student at elite Curtis Institute
Asked about the email Thursday, Johnson said administrators asked the recipients to not comment about the article because they were “concerned about the possible effects of conjecture and speculation on the story, and those involved.”
The Curtis’ response, including its email Thursday, stands in contrast to how some other private schools have responded when faced with old allegations of abuse.
For example, administrators at Germantown’s Greene Street Friends School in 2017 reached out to alumni to alert them about an abusive teacher on staff decades before, saying they did not believe he committed any misconduct while employed there but could not be certain.
The Curtis email did not ask for anyone to step forward with information, but Johnson later said its purpose was “that I’d hope if anyone had information about this story, that they would share it with us first so we could look into or address it as needed.”