Episcopal School of Dallas Needs To Change

Episcopal School of Dallas has been sued many times in cases related to abuse and mistreatment of children, one such case ending in a $9 million judgment against the school. This website is intended to raise the question of why this keeps happening at ESD and what needs to be done to stop it. For three such cases, this website provides detail including Legal Documents, News Articles and Other information around the cases themselves. In addition there is a section for Posts for victims and interested parties to present their opinions on the subject.

Janet Heimlich is an award-winning journalist and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, the first book to take an in-depth look at child abuse and neglect in the United States that is enabled by religious belief. In her book “Breaking Their Will”, Janet Heimlich lists three traits of religious schools, churches and other religious organizations that are most likely to abuse, neglect or mistreat children:                            

Authoritarian – Centralized decisions regarding student discipline in one final authority.

Culture of Fear – Staff not willing to speak up for fear of reprisal.  Special people who are close to and trusted by the Authoritarian are protected and rewarded, and so are their children. Punishment decisions are political.

Secretive –Disciplinary and employment matters kept secret. Publically it might be stated that this is to protect the privacy of the affected party, while really it would be to allow the decisions to remain unchallenged.

There have been at least three lawsuits over wrongful expulsion at Episcopal School of Dallas over the past several years. Two of them have gone to court. The court records and news articles around these cases are attached:

As alleged in the case of Jane Doe vs ESD, a high school girl was sexually abused by an ESD teacher/coach for months. According to court records, when ESD found out it expelled the girl, a lawsuit followed and the court awarded $9 million in damages to the victim. According to some parents involved with the school at the time, ESD changed none of its procedures to prevent this from happening again and instead it tightened up its legal protections against future lawsuits. 

In the case of John Doe vs ESD, according to court filings, the head of school, Meredyth Cole, left her 11th grade son at home alone unsupervised while she went out of town for the weekend.  According to the lawsuit allegations, her son had a darty ("drunken day party") at the head of school’s house at which drugs and alcohol were provided to children up to three years younger than the host. When the parents of the younger students found out, there was outrage. However, according to the lawsuit's claims, instead of punishing the head of school and the son, she concocted a story that her son was a victim and that the younger children were the organizers - even though her son had been promoting the "darty" for days. 

As alleged in the lawsuit, that did not stop Meredyth Cole from framing and expelling one of the younger children as a scapegoat. According to the lawsuit, when the mistreatment was pointed out to the Board, ESD, which was relying on its new legal protections, turned a blind eye. According to the plaintiff, ESD lost nearly every legal motion that was raised in the trial court. So shortly before trial, it filed a motion in the court claiming that the US judicial system has no jurisdiction over abuse and mistreatment in a faith-based school. The Dallas Court of Appeals ruled in favor of ESD, and the Texas Supreme Court denied review. So from this point forward, it appears that all civil claims against ESD for abuse or mistreatment will be automatically dismissed

 

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Jane Doe V ESD


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How an underage day-drinking party at the headmistress’s house eventually dragged the elite Episcopal School of Dallas into the Texas Supreme Court.

Dec 19,2018

As a result of a Texas court decision, you may have lost your right to sue the institution . . . even if it’s responsible for harming your child.

If you’re the parent of a child who attends a faith-based private school, there’s something you should know.

Dec 3,2018

Dallas prep school wins legal battle over student's expulsion

The attorney for a Dallas family says a legal victory for the Episcopal School of Dallas set a dangerous precedent. The family sued the school after their son was expelled. They lost and now worry about what it means for other families who try to hold a religious institution accountable. The case hinges on the school's religious affiliation and how much protection it and other institutions like it will have moving forward. Dallas attorney Larry Friedman represents the family of the teen identified as “John Doe, Jr.” in the lawsuit. He was booted from the elite prep school in 2014 his junior year after he was accused of smoking pot off campus. “This decision affects every student attending a religious private school in the state of Texas,” the lawyer said. “This particular young man had no disciplinary history with a clean record.” The family sued the school for breach of contract for the expulsion claiming it did not follow its own disciplinary rules and procedures. It all came down to Friday when the Texas Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling that tossed out the case. They said the school, as a religiously affiliated organization, was protected under the First Amendment and its internal disciplinary decisions could not be challenged. “Basically gives the administrators at these religious schools carte blanche to do anything they want to any student knowing that they can never be held accountable for their actions,” Friedman said. “It's scary.” The school argued in defense of its faith-based traditions and operations, but Friedman says there are much broader implications beyond his client's case. The Austin-based Child-Friendly Faith Project released a video statement with the boy’s father whose face and voice are obscured. They also released a statement of its own. “People who accept services from faith-based institutions in Texas, including schools but also possibly day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities now need to be very aware of this because there is no longer any incentive for those institutions to protect the people they are caring for,” the organization said in a statement. “What we are concerned about is that if parents don’t have the right to sue a school when they suspect that there's been harm or neglect or certainly abuse or neglect, then those children are incredibly vulnerable,” said Janet Heimlich, founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project. “Hopefully in the next few days, we'll figure out where to go,” Friedman said. “This family is not willing to let it go. They want justice.”

Nov 29,2018

Texas parents may have just lost the right to sue faith-based schools

The Texas Supreme Court made a decision this past week that could adversely affect the lives of thousands of children across the state. In the John Doe vs. Episcopal School of Dallas case, the justices refused to consider a harmful ruling issued by a lower appellate court. The ruling allows a faith-based school to avoid civil liability for harming a child in its care. In other words, Texas parents may have just lost their right to sue a faith-based school their children are enrolled in, even if there are claims of abuse or neglect. The case involves a child who was expelled from the Episcopal School of Dallas for allegedly smoking marijuana off campus. Since the expulsion was in violation of the contract between the school and parents, the father sued ESD for breach of contract, fraud, and other claims. ESD filed a motion claiming that, under the First Amendment, it was immune from being sued and sought special review in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Dallas. (The trial court rejected ESD’s argument.) The appeals court agreed with ESD’s claim that the father had no right to take the school to court. It’s reasoning came down to one simple truism: ESD claimed to be a “faith-based” institution. In ruling against the father, the appeals court relied upon what’s known as the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” of the First Amendment which, heretofore, has given churches and schools that provide a divinical education latitude in how they handle “internal affairs,” such as termination of membership or employees. But in the ESD case, the appeals court applied the doctrine so broadly as to determine that ESD could ignore the written contracts it had with parents and avoid liability for its harmful conduct, all because ESD claimed itself to be faith-based. Furthermore, in circumventing the trial court and taking the case to the appeals court, ESD was able to prevent key facts of the case from coming to light. For example, the appellate court was not presented evidence that a drug test had exonerated the student from the drug use allegation, that the expulsion was unfairly targeting the student to protect the reputation of the head of the school, and that the student was emotionally traumatized by the school’s arbitrary action, given that he was grieving the recent death of his mother. On June 22, the Texas Supreme Court refused to review the case, thereby allowing the lower court’s draconian decision to stand. The net result is that Texas private schools that purport to have a religious affiliation can now cite this ruling and claim that they are exempt from a jury’s or judge’s review of any decision relating to student life. All such decisions could be considered to be part of such schools’ “internal affairs”— even when those schools engage in egregious conduct, such as abusive discipline or a failure to fire a sexually abusive staff member. The Child-Friendly Faith Project is aware of countless cases in which a court decides that the First Amendment rights of a religious organization supersede the rights of children, but this is the most egregious example we’ve encountered in recent years. As fall approaches, this decision should make parents across Texas think seriously about whether to enroll their children in private, religious institutions. The Texas courts have sent a dangerous message: that it’s acceptable for faith-based schools in the Lone Star State to operate virtually free of accountability. We have no doubt that this decision will leave students extremely vulnerable and parents helpless to protect their children if they are harmed while under the care of those schools. Janet Heimlich is the founder of the Austin, TX-based Child-Friendly Faith Project and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. jheimlich@childfriendlyfaith.org

Nov 29,2018

Posts

ESD has had a lasting impact on me. Prior to ESD, I attended Fairhill for a year and a half and Holy Cross Lutheran for a year. Fairhill gave me confidence and even cockiness. It was the 1970's. I think Fairhill was one of the first places it was okay to feel good about yourself. At holy cross, it was mostly snickering and giggling. ESD knocked any confidence right out of me. My main takeaways from ESD are body dysmorphic disorder and later in my twenties: flashbacks. Nothing is all bad, though. ESD prepared me for a career in public service, if I could survive the awful, overbearing, and arrogant John Coke, sterling may, and Richard roever,what a fine example (albeit bruised and battered there), dealing with irate and upset customers is a walk in the park. I have to credit the place for giving me a love of books. Also, I learned to seek out older people as friends. With one exception, I was very fortunate that way. I remember visiting the school for testing. I was asked if I wanted to go to ESD more than any other school in town. Not wanting to upset my parents and taught to always be polite, I answered "sure". If I couldn't go to Fairhill or move back to phoenix, then I figured this place would not be any worse than any other institution of secondary learning-how wrong I was! Steve swann was a nice enough guy with lofty and laudable goals. However, even at the age of eleven, I thought the place reeked of pretension and pomposity. I was quirky and admittedly socially and emotionally immature.in those hallowed and homogenized halls where uniformity and conformity, I was that worst of all things: different. I realize the forum is geared for recent events at ESD, but I would like to thank the webmaster for a safe place to vent about the school that scarred me. I found the uniforms degarding and demeaning. My observation is that the uniforms fostered and instilled the idea in the kids (unconsciously) a sense that being different and not fitting in is a bad thing.

Dana Dowling

To student - In response to post defending ESD, let me just say that nearly all of what you say is true and this website never intended to indict all teachers or all administrators at ESD. Nearly all of them are dedicated and fair-minded and we apologize if the website implied that to you. The problem was with a few bad apples, who consolidated power at the top and filled the vacuum left by Father Swann. They were self-serving, self-indulgent and incompetent. Unfortunately the damage caused by them has damaged the reputation of a very fine group of teachers and lower level administrators. And the many students who were not victimized by the cronyism, got a very good education coupled with emotional and spiritual growth. But the problem at the top left many children scarred - and scarring even one child is inexcusable for someone or some group who purports to truly care for the children and whom the children are taught to respect. And, as you have eloquently stated, it is true that bad apples are unfortunately not infrequently hired into these positions . The thing that makes ESD different, as Jan Heimlich writes (see excerpts in this website), is that there are no internal controls at ESD to catch these abuses. All power is centralized in one person and the board is extremely passive and exists only to raise money. That is what has to change at ESD. And that is why this website was launched.

webmaster

I cannot speak for the school now, but I attended the school for 7th and 8th grade from 1975 to 1977. This was roughly the time the movie Carrie with sissy spacek and John Travolta came out. Let me tell you the upper-class, church-going children of E.S.D. made the teens of Carrie seem like model students filled with decorum and kindness. At E.S.D, I was bullied and called "toad" by John Coke, Sterling May, and Richard Roever. There were others, but these "good kids" still stand out after all these years. Also, there was the humiliation of being "de-pantsed" in gymn class by Eva mccrary. I do have to hand it to these ideal children-I was never physically hurt or even threatened-they were too smart and that would have been "unchristian"! When I tried to tell an adult, I was asked to think of a solution, my idea of getting an older teen to rough these guys up was met with outrage. I was asked if that was what I was learning about turning the other cheek! I will give Steve Swann the benefit of the doubt about whether he knew what was going on, but the teachers would have had to be deaf, dumb, and stupid to not know about the teasing and taunting!

Dana Dowling

Your December D Mag article above quotes Cole as saying: "They are students who are at their pinnacle ..... yet the judgment was to do that." She referred to several boys defecating on the St Marks . The hypocrisy is profound. Here is a video of Cole's pathetic son, also presumably at his pinnacle. How does she live with herself?

Hate the school

For anyone who has any doubts about it, Cole's departure was not voluntary. She was terminated. She hired a broker in the summer of 2016 to sell her house at 6428 Tulip Lane. Yet her new position at Lovett wasn't announced until November 2017. So she spent over a year looking for a new job and finally snagged one.

anonymous

ESD Must Change- It already IS changing. The new administration is so much better, not only in the high school, but in the middle school. The new administration actually cares about the kids and is doing everything that they can to make ESD a better place. From what I have experienced being a student here for most of my life, ESD is a great place, but like any school, had a few issues. This website is ignoring all of the amazing things about ESD- like the amazing teachers and community. For someone to portray the school in the way that they have on this website. they must be one of two things- 1. a parent whose looser child was kicked out and is now trying to take revenge, 2. someone who is speculating and has not been inside the school enough to analyze how it really works. I respect that someone may think the things that are written on this website, but these are problems that are exaggerated and that every school has, to some degree. ESD is a great place, that had some iffy administration- like any school. But to say that the whole school is full of child abusers and is corrupt is slanderous and incorrect.

Student

OK I admit that I attended a few parties while at ESD including the drug and alcohol darty at Clay Cole's house. But I never got expelled or even in serious trouble thankfully. After the lawsuit was filed, they became very gun shy about punisment - even when it was deserved. But just in case, I kept this photo of Clay Cole's father sharing a glass of wine with Clay's 16 year old sister. I would have had no problem suing it against her if she had tried to expel me.

Troublemaker

See letter from new Head of School brought in after Cole was fired. He says he supports Cole's disciplinary decisions which makes no sense because parents are told the discipline files are destroyed after graduation. That language had to come from the school's lawyer Ron Breaux or the Chairman Don Carty. It sounds like a CYA statement so they wouldn't get sued again. But then Baad adds that discipline is not supposed to be a "brick wall" which we know from the D Magazine article that under Cole it was. So this sounds like an admission that he doesn't support Cole. One way or the other it is more of that Orwellian Doublespeak that characterizes the language of so many bureaucrats and their lawyers these days - including of course ESD.

Parent of former student

I don’t know who you are, but what you are doing by creating this “website” is immature and are using as a way to make yourself feel better for whatever reason. In case you don’t know, ESD has found this website and will figure out who you are soon. If you want to avoid getting in trouble for creating this profound website. I recommend that you please take this website down before it’s to late.

Anonymous

A great man once said “Our educational policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both consciousness and culture”. The principles are clearly lost at ESD. Facts and logic can not be found at this establishment.

Anonymous

The problem is that school administrators are normally not the best and brightest (there are exceptions), but can make great administrators for their caring hearts and mission focus. The problem comes in when an administrator does not have a caring heart and is in the job for power, self-aggrandizement or money (or worse yet for sexual gratification.) Meredyth Cole was in the job for money and power and this was her first chance to make money and be powerful in her 26 years of toiling away. And she blew it. It is now over. She has been fired. Lets all let this episode go.

parent

Please don't use profanity when posting. Profane posts will not be published.

webmaster

School punished students based off of rumors and no evidence. If you attempt to defend yourself then you are immediately assumed as guilty. Teachers are awesome admin blows. Good school if you want your children to learn about all the rights they don’t possess while attending school. Also Mr. Ogelsby has a small wiener

Fuck dr hull

It seems the management of Episcopal School of Dallas is now aware of our website. How do we know? Well on Dec 12 and 13 2018 they attempted to bring our site down by stuffing our posts with nonsense words and horrific photos. They were attempting to crash it but did not succeed.
Whoever is doing this please tell your superiors that we actually welcome a healthy debate and counterpoint to what many disgruntled parents, faculty, and students have been posting here all along. Why not engage us with your facts, your points of view? We would love to receive it, we would love to be persuaded. If you have nothing and your response is to try to bring us down it only validates the whole point of this website -- that ESD must change.

Anonymous

Honestly ESD was awesome. All these lawsuits against the school are dumb. But yeah I loved raging tits out with the boys every chance i got. Buncha smart kids with good grades who know how to crush brews left and right. Esd, pretty dope school. Highly recommend your children to go there if you want them to be dope and smart at the same time.

Anonymous

ESD was great. Crushed brews left and right like they were candy. Went to college nothins changed. Still gettin A’s and forgetting 30% of each week. Y’all chill. Trash bags aren’t a crime. Stop giving your 18 year olds curfews it isn’t healthy.

Trap Lord

Not sure who started this site but thank you. ESD is filled with complete corruption and protection of unworthy individuals. You can now see why so many teachers come and leave the school so easily. 12/12/18

Former Student

Most of the board doesn’t do anything. The executive committee and their trusted few run everything. They don’t care about the children - except their own children who are coddled and protected. They care about raising money, building buildings, self-importance and pomposity.

Mom

I think its beyond stupid that the court would say that ESD is not held liable for its abuse and mistreatment of students. Even if it were a church these cases should go to trial. But ESD it not even close to a church. It is a freakin' school and run like the business that it is. These idiot judges need to be thrown out.

anon

I think the problem rests partly with the search committee headed by Cullum Clark and Nancy Perot. They couldn't have found a less worthy person. Meredyth Cole had no experience in administration. Her only experience was in fundraising at an all-girl school. I guess the search committee decided that money was the main goal and if she raised enough money, it didn't matter what happened to our kids.

mom

Even though ESD tried to spin it, it is clear to all that Meredyth Cole was fired and that Donna Hull was demoted for their misbehavior. At least ESD did the right thing on that.

I was there

Why is it so hard for ESD just to apologize to the children they mistreated and move on? They fired Cole and demoted Hull so it is quite obvious that they understand the problems they caused. But they are so afraid of admitting it that the story just lingers. Get it over with guys! You will be much better off. Plus you owe it to the victims.

Jody

Donna Hull is a bad person. She is rigid and inflexible and will do anything to stay in good graces with the boss. She is afraid of Cole. This was Hull's first opportunity to step into a higher paying job and she wanted to keep her job. She doesn't care about the children - but she talks as if that is her highest priority. Very deceptive person. Don't trust her. ESD was smart to demote her and get her out of an authority position.

ESD Parent

Ron Breaux was the lawyer the school hired to help Meredyth Cole avoid lawsuits - and the only one with the power to stop her abuses. He had a troubled child at ESD who was absent and tardy a lot. The TEC requires students with ten or more absences to be reported. Because Ronald Breaux's son had exceeded this number, Meredyth Cole expunged his absence records. In return, Ron Breaux protected Meredyth Cole and her personal vendetta against boys who disagreed with or teased her son. Meredyth Cole and Ron Breaux had a cozy club and they along with Donna Hull ran the upper school - until the Board figured it out and fired Cole and demoted Hull.

Former Employee

I worked in the office at ESD and saw what Meredyth Cole did to kids and I didn’t like it at all. But I couldn’t stop it. Neither could Jeffrey Laba who actually liked the kids (which Cole and Donna Hull did not). One time during the John Doe case, Cole came to my co-worker and asked her to get her son to write a letter saying John Doe tried to get him to smoke pot - which absolutely never happened. Cole was afraid for her job over the case - and with good reason. She was disliked by nearly everyone.

Former Employee

ESD says that Meredyth Cole found another job but the truth is that she was terminated. The couldn't fire Cole and Donna Hull right out because they would have testified against ESD at trial. So they told her to start looking instead - and they demoted Donna Hull. When the court ruled that there wouldn't be a trial, she was gone in a hurry. It serves Cole's, Hull's and ESD's purposes to make up this untrue story since it deflects attention from the mistreatment and litigation.

anonymous

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