This post is continued from Truth to the Rumors: Part 1
Every year at the start of the new school year, Taipei American School’s Head of School, Sharon Hennessy, stands before all new members of faculty and welcomes them into the TAS fold. One specific line she says to the room full of educators each year is: “Don’t touch the children, in romance or in anger.” I’m guessing if you’re brand new to the school, it’s nothing more than a funny comment. But for teachers who’ve been around, it’s a reminder of things the school would rather forget.
It’s hard to know where to even start with this next part, so here goes:
From 2009 to 2011, Taipei American School employed a man named Alistair Grant as Director of College Counseling. He left TAS abruptly following allegations of inappropriate relationships with at least one TAS student. Grant was seen with one specific student in Taipei on multiple occasions, sometimes holding hands.
Fellow students reported the alleged relationship to members of faculty. Faculty in turn reported the alleged relationship to the TAS administration. Around that time, there was an anonymous question about inappropriate student relationships during a Faculty Advisory Meeting with Sharon Hennessy. She shot down the question. An ex-faculty member who was at that meeting said Hennessy’s response was “very emotional”. Hennessy had said to the group that “a good man is leaving.” Another faculty member from that period said “everybody knew” about Alistair Grant’s alleged relationship with the student. However, both Grant and the student denied a relationship, and Grant left TAS very soon after.
Grant would immediately join the staff at The Branson School, a highschool a little north of San Francisco. He told colleagues he was leaving TAS early to get set up at Branson. All of the loose ends probably seemed tied up nice and neatly — until it all inevitably unraveled.
In April 2019, Alistair Grant was one of four faculty members named in an independent sexual misconduct investigation commissioned by Branson. The allegations against him at Branson are real, graphic and disturbing. There were at least two victims of his predatory behavior who came forward to give details of how he groomed and abused them, but no charges have been filed. Investigators contacted Grant and included their interaction with him in the final report:
“Grant provided a written denial: “Any allegation that I committed misconduct against one of my students is false. I never committed any inappropriate conduct with any students at Branson or anywhere else.” Grant’s attorney followed up to say that Grant would not speak with us.”
You can read the letter from Branson to their community summarizing the report findings or download the full report here.
Media reports of the Branson investigation reached TAS alums last year, but the school was silent and took no action. Then a TAS alum named Ian Chang set up an online petition on March 10, 2020 bringing the entire Alistair Grant episode into the present day and the public sphere.
The petition, titled “Investigaton of Faculty Sexual Misconduct at TAS”, states three demands: an independent outside investigation, transparent communication with the community, and implementation of preventative measures so this doesn’t happen again. The petition currently has 460 signatures and 141 comments from TAS students, alums, parents and ex-faculty.
In the petition, Chang wrote, “Rumours about Grant have been rampant in our community for a long while, accompanied by innuendo, plain misinformation and blatant victim-blaming. Whether we like it or not, the Grant issue is already out. Which makes transparency even more important. We not only owe the victims an apology, but more importantly, we owe the victims and the community the whole truth.”
Chang’s petition was successful at forcing the school’s hand. In an email sent a few days later, the TAS administration committed to hiring an outside investigator. The email began, “The school has become aware of allegations…” as if the administration had no prior knowledge. And worthy of note is the email was not signed by Sharon Hennessy herself, but instead by Grace Cheng Dodge, Deputy Head of School, and Adam Nelson, Dean of Programs.
A follow-up email sent on April 8, this time signed only by Adam Nelson, informed the community that lawyers had been hired:
“In order to make sure our investigation is both thorough and unbiased, we have retained McLane Middleton law firm and renowned educational law expert, Mr. David Wolowitz, who has advised our community on building safe and healthy relationships.” It continued to say the TAS investigation would be led by Susan E. Schorr, vice-chair of McLane’s Education Law Practice Group.
To compare, Branson assured their community that the investigators they hired had no direct connections with Branson and had not represented the school previously.
If there was a sliding scale for bias, how would this rate? David Wolowitz of McLane Middleton has traveled to Taipei to work with TAS four times between 2014 and 2018 to provide risk management training sessions. In April 2015, he spoke to Upper School students about “Healthy Adult-Student Relationships”. He also spoke to school administrators about “Conducting Investigations of Alleged Misconduct Toward Students in an Independent School”.
Wolowitz also worked frequently with St. Paul’s School during Hennessy’s time there as Vice Rector. Between 2000 and 2005, Wolowitz provided faculty training at St. Paul’s a total of 26 times. All of this public information was found within an online PDF of David Wolowitz’s CV.
Responding to my email query, Susan Schorr of McLane Middleton, who is leading the TAS investigation, wrote: “McLane had complete independence in conducting the investigation and in making our findings”. The firm would provide the final report to four individuals at TAS: the Head of School and three other top administrators. Additional disclosure would be at the group’s discretion.
Speaking of St. Paul’s again, Hennessy was directly connected to a 2000 sexual misconduct investigation into the school’s history of abuse. When new leadership there conducted an updated investigation in May 2016, the law firm looked into the findings of the 2000 report that happened under Hennessy’s watch.
The new report, which you can read in its entirety here, criticized the old one for prioritizing the reputation of St. Paul’s instead of finding out the truth. It said the goal of the 2000 report was “to protect its reputation (and those of the individuals involved) and reduce the risk of claims being made against the school.” The lawyer for that investigation was Robert B. Gordon, who The New York Times described as “the school’s lawyer” in this November 2004 article about St. Paul’s financial scandal.
As part of the new 2016 investigation, lawyers spoke by phone with Reverend Craig. B. Anderson, the Rector at the time. Reverend Anderson is quoted saying he had “delegated the day-to-day work on this project to the then Vice Rector, Dr. Hennessy.”
Sharon Hennessy declined to speak with investigators of the 2016 St. Paul’s report.
“Passing the trash” is the common term used to describe when school administrators move predator teachers from school to school. Instead of sweeping the trash under the rug, the trash is swept onto the next school. The predators are then allowed to repeat the cycle of abuse, dismissal, rehire and abuse again.
Alistair Grant came to TAS in 2009 as part of a five-person college counsellor team nicknamed the “Dream Team”. His previous job was at The Harker School, a private K-12 school in San Jose, California, where he worked from 2004 to 2008. Grant’s time at Harker overlapped with another TAS faculty member, Richard Hartzell, who was Harker’s Head of Upper School from 2001 to 2007. Hartzell spent 12 years as TAS Upper School Principal and retired in May 2019.
As for Alistair Grant’s move from TAS to Branson, I checked with the HR department at Branson to ask about his application. Specifically, I tried to find out who wrote Grant’s recommendation letter from TAS that allowed them to “pass the trash” to Branson. Michelle Jones, the current Director of Human Resources at Branson, replied on August 26: “I do understand that his application materials may have come from Carney Sandoe, you may check with them.”
The name Carney Sandoe should sound familiar. It’s the recruitment consultancy that placed Sharon Hennessy in the TAS superintendent role back in 2006. Hennessy has other connections to the firm too. In the past she’s hired Carney Sandoe consultants to speak at TAS. I also found this active URL that implies Sharon Hennessy was at one point an employee there. And this Zoominfo page says she was a member of Carney Sandoe’s Board of Advisors from 2010 to 2016.
I tried to contact individuals at Carney Sandoe with connections to TAS but didn’t get a response.
A big question is, was TAS required to file a report about allegations against Grant from other students and faculty?
In 2003, TAS experienced a very public and high-profile case of the alleged rape of a 12-year-old student. (The legal age of consent in Taiwan is 16.) The case was later settled out of court. At the time, the mother of the victim reported the alleged rapes by a 17-year-old student, and TAS administration had reported the case to the Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault — but not until a month after being notified. TAS also filed a report with the Ministry of Education in November 2003, which the ministry had accepted.
A March 2005 article in the Taipei Times stated the Ministry of Education had asked TAS to “review its gender education and set up campus systems to handle sex abuse or harassment cases” after the passage of the Gender Equality Education Law (性別平等教育法).
B.F. Huang (黃碧芬), a lawyer specializing in laws related to women and children, was quoted in the same article saying, “The Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) and Children and Juveniles Welfare Law (兒童及少年福利法) both require educational authorities to report any cases of sexual abuse or harassment to local governments.”
She continued, “Both laws also treat the victims’ confidentiality as the priority. Local governments or authorities would not expose any of the victims’ information to the public. So confidentiality should not be an issue for delaying a report.”
There have been so many sexual misconduct scandals in recent years — from Trump to Catholic churches to college campuses — that I’m sure we’re all somewhat desensitized to it. And it’s now common to see women and men coming out with their personal stories of abuse.
However, we need to discuss that it’s possible no alleged victims of Alistair Grant have spoken to the McLane Middleton lawyers. These TAS alums might still not be ready and have no immediate plans to face what happened to them, even anonymously. Based on what Ian Chang wrote in the petition about the “rampant rumours”, “innuendo, plain misinformation and blatant victim-blaming”, this is understandable.
The young womens’ silence doesn’t make what happened less real or damaging. It reflects a culture at TAS and in school systems overall that can deny or diminish allegations, and be quick to sweep problems away — sometimes to the very next school that hires the predator.
TAS administrators Grace Cheng Dodge and Adam Nelson wrote in their first email about the sexual misconduct allegations: “The amount of time that has passed does nothing to diminish the seriousness with which we treat these allegations. The safety and wellbeing of our students is always the school’s highest priority.” In the follow-up email they wrote: “Our administration pledges to you that we will conduct this investigation with the utmost compassion and transparency.”
The issue is, not only does McLane Middleton have a long-standing relationship with TAS and Sharon Hennessy, the top administrators can’t be described as impartial either. Worst case scenario, the full report may never become public. As Susan Schorr told me, the completed report will be sent by McLane Middleton to four people at TAS: the Head of School, Deputy Head of School, Dean of Programs and the Board Chair:
— Sharon Hennessy was Head of School at the time Alistair Grant was employed at TAS, and has been completely silent on the matter. If the report is released after Hennessy’s last day at TAS this Wednesday September 23, will she still receive the report and have first eyes on its findings?
— Grace Cheng Dodge, who will be Interim Head of School once Hennessy leaves, was a direct colleague of Alistair Grant. She was hired to the same “Dream Team” of college counsellors. Has she spoken about what she knew at the time? Her husband Michael Dodge is also an employee of TAS as Director of Facilities.
— Adam Nelson, who will be Interim Deputy Head of School, overlapped with Alistair Grant’s time at TAS. He also overlapped with Grant and Richard Hartzell at Harker. Nelson was Chair of the Communication Studies department at Harker from August 2007. Has he spoken about what he knew at the time?
— Finally, Tina Koo, the Board Chairperson, has been on the TAS Board since 2007, and Chair of the Board since 2015. Koo’s latest term as Board Chair will end on June 30, 2023. By then she’ll have been on the TAS Board for 15 years. There are currently no term limits for Board members.
To make up for these possible conflicts of interest, TAS should look at how other top schools have communicated sexual misconduct reports to their communities and to the public. For instance, The Branson School, Hotchkiss, Key School, and St. Paul’s.
Yes, this may attract uncomfortable media attention. But as Michael Hirschfeld, then-Rector of St. Paul’s, said about their 2016 investigation: “The way you protect the school’s reputation is by being transparent.”
So what’s been happening since those 8th graders were expelled over the summer?
TAS administrators have formed an “Anti-Oppression Task Force” to address issues of racism at the school. Members of the TAS alumni community have put together recommendations for creating an inclusive and anti-racist campus at TAS. Their work is available here.
Despite her “serious physical illness” requiring her to “stop working as soon as possible”, Sharon Hennessy has been attending school events, including a naming dedication ceremony for the Middle School on September 7. She attended another naming ceremony for the Lower School on September 10.
Her own name won’t be forgotten. In late 2019, the Upper School building was renamed in dedication to her, changing its nickname from “D Block” to “H Block”. This took 33 sets of donors banding together and throwing $1 million USD at the school — you read that number correctly.
As for Alistair Grant, he was married in 2018 and now lives with his wife and baby in Connecticut.
When you’re a kid, you assume that the adults have things under control. If something goes wrong, an adult out there, somewhere, will fix it. But when you become an adult, you realize there are limits to what adults can do. And sometimes adults don’t do as much as they should.
If you’ve read to this point and you’re a TAS parent or alum, I hope you’ll have some ideas of where to take things from here. Until then, please ask yourself and the adults around you: have we learned from history or will we repeat it?
Update 1: I contacted Taipei American School on October 6, 2020 for comment, prior to posting the Chinese 中文 translation of this story on October 13, 2020. TAS did not respond.
Update 2: TAS released the full sexual misconduct report by McLane Middleton on November 23, 2020. The report is available to the TAS community through their website (login required). Here is a PDF of the files I received:
Independent Investigation Report to Taipei American School Regarding Allegations of Historical Educator Misconduct
Thank you to all individuals who spoke with me. They did so on the condition their names wouldn’t be disclosed.
If you wish to come forward with any further information regarding sexual misconduct or abuse at TAS, please contact me by email: email@example.com
Comments for this post appear below the following citations and resources list.
Image of the TAS Middle School gymnasium is from the TAS website.
Resources for Parents
Internet Matters: Helping Parents Keep Their Children Safe Online
Stop Sexual Assault in Schools: Educating students, families, and schools about the right to an equal education free from sexual harassment.
Propublica 990 Tax Filings for Taipei American School
Petition: Investigation of Faculty Sexual Misconduct at TAS
Petition: Request for Open Dialogue at TAS
“Turmoil Grips Elite School Over Money and Leaders“, The New York Times, Nov 2004
“At Elite Prep School, Parents Do The Math“, Wall Street Journal, Aug 2003
“A Private-School Affair”, Vanity Fair, 2006
Letter to the Community from Branson
Branson’s Full Sexual Misconduct Investigation Report (Google Drive Download)
Independent Investigation of Sexual Misconduct at St. Paul’s School (PDF Download)
“St. Paul’s School Admits 13 Cases of Sexual Misconduct”, Concord Monitor, May 2017
“Parents Remain Unclear Over Changes to TES”, Taipei Times, Feb 2018
“TAS Denies Mishandling of Sexual Abuse Case”, Taipei Times, March 2005
“This Is the Casual Racism That I Face at My Elite High School”, The New York Times, Sept 2020
“Novelist Lacy Crawford Writes About Her Sexual Assault While She Was a Student at St. Paul’s School”, Vanity Fair, June 2020
“Taiwan’s International Schools No Longer Havens for Foreigners”, Taiwan Today, Aug 2006
“Taiwan’s International Schools Are a Deregulated Nightmare”, The News Lens International, April 2018
It’s a year after you published this story, and now TAS is facing another sexual scandal. This time, it is a high school teacher who acted very inappropriately towards the boys in his class. The inappropriate behavior was observed by the entire class, and were reported to the administrators by several classmates, both boys and girls (including my child). One of the victims was told by the school that if he persisted with reporting this teacher, he could be sued for defamation.
The teacher was finally dismissed when a student wrote a 7-page expose detailing how the teacher groomed the students to trust and to fear him, and how the teacher used his position and power to act inappropriately both on and off campus. This teacher had been teaching at TAS for over 10 years and past students have complained about him as well.
The school has retained the same firm to investigate these reports. We will see what they conclude.
Kathy, if you would like to write about this case, I am happy to share with you what I know including the 7-page expose that the victim has shared with the high school students at TAS.
I just came after seeing the school’s bs email patting themselves on the ass about them being cleared of any wrongdoing to say that’s a blatant lie lol. All the students know the truth. There’s also a shit ton more scandals than just the pedophilic cases others have mentioned (Grant, Wallace..) that the school turns a blind eye to.
care to expand on what was in the email?
I added a link to the full report at the top of the post.
damn there’s a lot of perverts out there. I hope they catch the teacher who assaulted the student in the motel room.
the conclusion is that there’s no evidence about Grant’s misconduct in TAS, but his escapades at his next school have been well documented.
“WYSIWYG” hides behind a pseudonym to cast aspersions against me and my family. What a coward!
Kathy, Just so you know, your article has a lot more reach than just to our little rock under threat. I was forwarded the piece by a non-Taiwanese friend overseas the same day you went live with it. As an outspoken person who grew up with very different values from the locals, it’s with great regret and embarrassment that I am unable to post under my real identity because any retribution (yes, TAS is a vindictive place run by a vindictive administration and BoD) will also impact my children who go to school there.
I am surprised the school has not started any legal action to force you to remove the article yet. This serves to confirm one of two things…1) Most, if not all of it, is true and the less action they take the sooner it will go away or 2) Most, if not all of it, is true and any action will only further implicate the BoD and administration in the complicity. Bear in mind, the school loves legal action and will take a swipe at anyone weak enough to succumb so good for you.
After having spent enough time there as a parent, I am well aware of the stories and the negatively aggressive nature of management and complicit BoD. While I can’t confirm the veracity of most of the stories, I’ve had my share of interactions with the administration and BoD members over various matters over the years starting with the initial admissions process…objectively speaking, 80% of those encounters resulted in negative feedback, a defensive posture or clear retribution for even mentioning or suggesting certain things.
In my interactions with Hennessy, while mostly cordial, her demeanor always had an edge and an air of condescension…until one day I clearly disagreed with her on a matter of safety of the school community to which she suggested my family not be a part of the school anymore. I called her out on those comments and she walked back her original suggestion because it was all documented in the clear light of day.
I know of many other situations where families were invited or told to leave under questionable administrative decision making circumstances including the racist video production matter. One family was able to successfully fight back and get their non-participating child reinstated and another wealthy and prominent family made a generous donation to re-aquire a seat at the school for their child who engaged in the racist activity. This is the arrogance of the school and, I believe, wholly precipitated by Hennessy and the BoD, who have bought loyalty from the rest of the administration or forced loyalty under threat (perceived or otherwise).
While I am hopeful for change once the new senior school administrator gets appointed, I have very little expectation anything will change unless it comes with a wholesale replacement of the BoD and by laws enacted under their tenure. 100 percent of parents I’ve heard speak about the BoD do so in a negative context and believe it is not representative of the school community. It’s effectively a social clique (call it gang if you wish) run by the current head and all new members are quickly assimilated. A separate legal and compliance mechanism should also be implemented to handle sensitive matters independently of the administration and board…a mechanism with real teeth. God knows we spend enough on the administrators so another item on the expense line shouldn’t matter too much.
As for the fundraising efforts the school undertakes, this is where families should have a direct voice but even this process is corrupted because those who don’t make the minimum annual cut are fearful of being recognized as non-contributors…and there are those families who will always make a generous donation to get an edge on the other families for recognition, college recommendations and other inducements because the school has always generously rewarded generous donors to the detriment of those who give less. I’ve been told directly by a board member that it is entirely proper for the school to reward generous donors because it is a for profit institution and not a public institution. However farcical this is, it is the reality of TAS.
There will be people here who say that I have a choice to move to another school but my children are reasonably happy there and their teachers mostly seem well trained and motivated to provide sufficient value for my money spent there…but yes, I’ve thought a lot about leaving. There are many issues at TAS…while I am hopeful there will be lessons learned from this public and embarrassing disclosure, the sad reality is the privileged, including the BoD will be the last to self-reflect and the overpaid and self-important senior administrators will not rock their own boat…so little will change.
1) The vast majority of TAS families have little to no voice at the school and are not properly represented by the BoD. Will anything change?
2) The senior administration and BoD get failing grades for their lack of mindfulness, transparency and objectivity.
3) The rest of the staff, teaching and otherwise, get a B+ for their efforts and are being dragged down by the bungling folks in 2.
Thanks for sharing your experiences as a current parent. Unfortunately none of the 7 expelled boys have been reinstated. That’s a rumor that’s floated around for a month or two.
So they have to sue to prove their innocence, but if they do sue it proves they’re bullies?
Why would they have to sue to prove their innocence? If they’re innocent, can’t they just release the full sexual misconduct report?
I’m responding to this: “I am surprised the school has not started any legal action to force you to remove the article yet. This serves to confirm one of two things…1) Most, if not all of it, is true and the less action they take the sooner it will go away or 2) Most, if not all of it, is true and any action will only further implicate the BoD and administration in the complicity.”
@Anonymous, the school is already quite adept at bullying parents and students so few will contend this point…but as a typical advocate or apologist for the administration and BoD, you miss the point completely. The school is already in a lose lose position on the matters addressed. There is no platform they can stand on where they will prevail so the lack of action is a logical one. Separately, the school relies on potentially conflicted members of administration and a non-professional BoD for broader oversight when the reality is that an independent compliance mechanism (not a rubber stamp body) needs to be instituted to address any legal issue or any matter with a clear or potential conflict of interest. Look at the constitution of the board…it’s a group of entrenched insiders who originally made it there through a popularity contest and once there, they tightened up the rules to allow them to remain in “power” and exclude others whom are not like minded or of similar social stature. Many in this “social club” call themselves business or community leaders, which may be right, but they are definitely not qualified to run a school.
@Fed Up, out of curiosity though, wouldn’t you parents want your children to leave a toxic institution? Why would you want to have your children and yourself be confronted with toxicity, elitism and condescension?
And @ Anonymous because if the article were untrue the author could be sued for libel but because the claims are true that shouldn’t be permissible
(nor is suing someone just for something they say moral nor honorable. and I’d like to stress, freedom of speech forever.)
There is some truth here, but also some that is false, and also a great deal that is misleading.
Kathy here also has a serious conflict of interest of her own, if my sources are correct.
I would name names, but I’d rather not make an enemy of one of the wealthiest families on island.
What do you think is false and misleading in the articles? You’re anonymous anyway, go for it. As for my “serious” conflicts of interests, that’s absolutely laughable to say compared to the conflicts of interests at TAS. I have zero conflict of interest.
Let’s talk about those alleged conflicts of interest:
1. Hennessy: she’s gone, and presumably no longer has any influence over decision-making. Also, given that her conduct is presumably part of what is being investigated, it’s probably good that she hasn’t been signing those emails.
2. Dodge: That she was hired by Grant is definitely a potential conflict. So it’s good that she appears to no longer be signing those emails either.
3. Nelson: You say Grant left TAS in 2011. According to LinkedIn, Nelson started there in 2010. And, at the time, he was the chair of a brand new department. Not exactly a powerful or influential position. As you say, he started at Harker in 2007. Grant must have been gone by 2009 in order to have started at TAS that year. And, during that time, Nelson was again a department chair. According to Wikipedia, though, Harker has 450 teachers. And while Harker’s faculty directory doesn’t list a “Communications Studies Department,” they do have one for “Speech & Debate,” which sounds like what Nelson was doing, at least based on LinkedIn. The size of that department, according to Harker’s faculty directory? 4 people. Again, not exactly powerful or influential. Nelson didn’t have much time to get to know Grant in either place, and certainly wouldn’t have been in a position to make any relevant decisions or know anything other than rumors. Unless you have evidence to the contrary?
4. Koo: So she keeps getting elected by the other parents? So what?
I mean, this all looks to me like an organization that was trying to avoid conflicts of interest, rather than create them, at least in this case. The most senior administrators had potential conflicts, so they tapped someone further down the hierarchy to send emails and work with the investigators. Isn’t that what you would want to have happen?
The problem with you having any conflicts, such as being friends with a parent whose child has recently been seriously disciplined by the school, is that you’re asking us to trust you and your anonymous sources. But, if you have some ax to grind, if you might be trying to help that friend, why should we trust you? Why should we trust that you’re telling the whole story? Especially when you admit you weren’t even interested in asking these people for comment, in getting their perspective?
You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. No doubt about that. But don’t pretend it’s journalism. Don’t pretend it’s anything other than an opinion/advocacy piece.
I’m amazed that some TAS parents are so adamant about protecting TAS when it’s the kids (your kids!) who are at risk. The kids must be so confused reading these comments wondering why parents are shooting the messenger instead of demanding better from their school.
The parents of the 7 kids are obviously launching a massive PR campaign, in effect modeling to their kids that the way to address being ill-behaved is instead to let their parents be ill-behaved on their behalf.
Kathy, if you can’t see that you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
If you think this is about the 7 kids being expelled, you’re incapable of seeing the big picture. This is about making sure the sexual misconduct report doesn’t get buried, and asking whether TAS sent an abusive counselor to another school in the US. As much as I love going back and forth with anonymous commenters, I gotta get back to food blogging.
Yes, that is probably the greatest concern of mine but the children, at least mine, seem to be unaware of the issues. We’ve used the racist incident as a teaching moment. Despite the local Taiwanese tendency to be racist and sexist (yes, bring on the defensive and indignant comments), including within our own broader family, race relations and gender equality has been a subject our immediate family doesn’t shy away from so our children have a good foundation. While sometimes tiring, we have plenty of source material at the school about how the children should not conduct themselves…so teaching moments all around. We also stay away from school activities in general, except those which are relevant to our children…and when something comes up, I don’t mind standing up to the administration about it. In general, the school can do little when a parent stands up for something which is objectively correct but most parents don’t do so because of fear of being stigmatized or singled out.
Hi Kathy I would to get in contact with you to give you my story!
My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
One interesting question is, how was Hennessy able to maintain such effective control over the faculty and parents?
Disclaimer: I’m going to say the following is my “opinion” because I am scared of Hennessy’s revenge, just like many people around her must have been. Therefore, since this is all “opinion” I cannot be sued all right?
First, Hennessy had henchmen on the board.
Next, I am aware an accountant resigned due to the said accountant questioning her. Find that accountant, I’m sure they have interesting things to say.
I know she has the power to expel students, she could expel students or mess up their grades/applications/etc. And for the faculty….welll. Fear and intimidation is one thing I’ve heard. I have heard of her giving fellow teachers a hard time, and I’m assuming she sees them as “cockroach” like beings because that is what a news article says she called someone who questioned her in the United States.
Someone should look into her favoritism, objectification, and hinting to teachers to favor certain students.
I would like to see some information on the beautiful staff members she had high praise for. Someone should courageously speak out on Robert Mueller, because we all know about that. And let’s talk about the beautiful rise of Andrew Lowman and how amazing of a college counselor he was and how he TOTALLY NEVER MADE MISTAKES.
Tricky in Taipei, I admire you for publishing this article and I hope there are no repercussions such as TAS will sending you a lawsuit or Sharon Hennessy bullying you into submission. XOXO.
Are you referring to the time Andrew Lowman failed to submit a student’s important ED documents? The current head of college counseling is just as competent. Last year, Melanie Hamre told one of her students, “I think Georgia Institute of Technology is a far reach for you, why don’t you apply to Georgia Tech instead?”
Thanks for the entertaining, albeit highly editorialized blog post. Lots of liberties taken and assumptions made here to fuel the gossip fire. Citing “the internet” as your source is laughable and insulting to actual journalism, but since you don’t explicitly claim to be a journalist, I suppose the rules don’t apply.
A couple of notes, only on part 1 since who has the time:
-You have a misunderstanding of how TAS operates in regards to their relationship with AIT and Taiwanese government. AIT’s relationship with TAS is strong, which why they deemed it unnecessary to take the offered board seat. The Taiwanese government has too much of a stake in TAS to let it be purchased by a private entity.
-Hennessy wasn’t placed. That’s not how consulting works. She was recommended along with others. TAS made the decision and her selection reflected the board’s priorities. Terrible choice to favor fundraising/money over education and it finally came home to roost.
-Don’t quote Jeffrey Williams. Ever. His family did the whole college admissions scandal thing before Hollywood made it cool, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
TAS has many issues as you’ve discovered, but if you spent nearly as much time contacting those involved as you spent adding to your lengthy word count, we’d all be better for it. Instead, you’ve peppered in reports found online while creating your own narrative to fill in the blanks. That’s how conspiracy theories like Q-anon are born.
I’m not going to lie though, I did enjoy the read. Can’t wait for part 3!
Ha, thanks for the comparison to Q-anon! That’s when you know you’ve really pushed some buttons.
You’re not the only one who can write with hyperbole.
I’m not anonymous. Curious how many of these opinions would be posted if everyone used their real names.
You need to always have the last word, eh?
The St. Paul’s and Branson reports are seriously upsetting. I’m glad TAS has hired outside investigators to look into its own past.
Beyond that, though, the most fascinating thing to me in all this is the extent to which parents seem to want to cast themselves as David in this story. The extent to which they see “The School” or “The Administration” as some kind of Goliath, as some kind of monolithic evil force.
But the reality is these parents are some of the wealthiest, most influential, and best connected people in Taiwan. Compared to them, even the most highly paid people at TAS make peanuts.
The real story is the drama between these impossibly wealthy families.
Hennessy is gone. Someone new is in charge. Give her a chance to do the right thing. In the meantime, don’t blame her for the mistakes of the rich, or of her predecessor.
Anyone working at that school is a normal person doing their best to do the right thing. Some of them are better at their jobs than others, but that’s true at any organization.
Let the parents have their drama. Let them figure out what kind of school they want, and how they want it to be run. But leave the teachers, administrators, and other staff out of it.
As long as they haven’t been implicated in any child sex abuse scandals or other criminal misconduct, that is.
I was also surprised that parents and alums had to resort to public petitions to get the attention of the administration. It shows communication and transparency simply wasn’t happening under Hennessy. And while some students come from very wealthy families, it’s not all. I don’t see how parents can “figure out what kind of school they want, and how they want it to be run” when the culture of fundraising from current parents is so prevalent.
That’s definitely true. She wasn’t a fan of either, that’s for sure…
I always thought the board was ultimately in charge, though. And aren’t most of those people elected by other parents? If the parents want change, can’t they just elect a different board?
The bylaws about how Board members are elected has changed. The Board has parent members (elected by parents) and appointed members (suggested by Board). One of the changes is now the Board doesn’t need to give at least 2 options for appointed seats for parents to vote on. They only need to nominate one candidate. Also there are no term limits, which is why Tina Koo has been there for so long. The parents elected Alex Niu to the Board this April because he wanted more transparency around financials, but the Board ended up kicking him off.
But the board is mostly parents elected by other parents, right?
Sounds like drama between two groups of parents to me!
From the TAS website about the Board:
“The TAS Board is a hybrid board consisting of nine elected Board members and four appointed Board members. Elected Board members are current TAS parents and serve for three-year terms. Appointed Board members are not current TAS parents and serve for four-year terms. The Elected Board members appoint the Appointed Board members by a vote within the Board.”
So the appointed Board seats aren’t filled by parents.
Anyone who can afford that tuition is a hell of a lot wealthier than I’ve ever been!
I’m here from the ISR forum board where this link was posted. I’m an International School teacher, and former police officer. I’ve never been to Taiwan nor do I know any of these people. I just wanted to say how disgusted I am by people defending what happened to a 12yr old girl. It’s no surprise to me that there are the usual creepy guys out in force. Gross. Sounds like some major safeguarding fails at this school and anyone involved should not still be in a position of power. I am utterly sick of these school administrators taking ‘expert status’ stances when it comes to child protection. Your teaching licence/PGCSE/ MEd does NOT make you a child protection expert. This utter arrogance is rampant in the teaching profession. With regard to the other issues brought up- I have no insider knowledge of this school but I do know that many of these international schools (in many countries) are a law unto themselves. I am pleased to see such a push back from parents.
All of us, teachers, parents and food bloggers ;) …have a responsibility to society when it comes to the raising and nurturing of our kids. Drop kicking kids out of school for this sort of behaviour is not the answer. The community is the answer. We TEACH why this sort of behaviour is not acceptable. Community/school expulsion or to use this schools yukky phrase ‘separation’ is exactly the wrong sort of response.
Kudos to the TrickyTaipai blogger and kudos to the parent community out here demanding accountability and transparency. .
Black Lives Matter.
Lots of love to you all.
Thanks for your comment.
This article doesn’t even touch the more recent sexual abuse scandals. Wally Hobbs a few years back sleeping with a student (and having a relationship with her, I think people found out about it after she graduated and he was seen with her in New York while he still worked at TAS). Not to mention that middle school choir teacher who got fired right after he was hired for being an active member of an online pedophile community with the username “boylover”. Note that he was fired after taking a group of middle school boys on several overnight school trips…
I wonder if the McLane Middleton investigation went beyond the Alistair Grant issue or if they covered other egregious examples likes the ones you described (and I’ve heard from others too.)
Can’t wait for Part 3! ***Ordering popcorn machine from aliexpress at this very moment***
K Cheng. Great job and just ignore this David Chard fella. I stopped reading his comments and presume others did also. For someone trained in PR, I think he’s lost his touch as he’s certainly not likeable in his responses nor able to make land his points with conviction.
The most troubling thing about this is Alistair Grant. He groomed children. The administration knew. Sharon knew. They did nothing. He then went on to abuse other children. Many of those administrators are still working in schools. This worries me.
I strongly feel TAS needs to communicate to the community their hiring practices. Where they find teachers, their background and reference checks, and divulge any relationships to prior/current faculty. The administration needs to rebuild trust.
I heard that none of the seven 8th grade students from Part 1 were expelled, and that they can all return to school after this year?
This is incorrect. They are invited to reapply after 6 or 12 months depending on the kid, but they are not guaranteed to get back in. Their spot has not been saved. And this incident will go on their record for college applications.
Thank you for writing this article. As a TAS parent, I (along with many other parents) have always suspected something was not quite right. You have answered some of our suspicions and raised even more questions about the Board and the senior administrators.
A few questions that came to mind about the Board:
1. Why did the Board approve Hennessy’s year-long absence during 2017-18 school year while giving her full pay plus benefits? As a permanent resident in Taiwan, she was entitled to an excellent (and inexpensive) national health care. Staying in Taiwan would allow her to perform her work with in-person meetings without worrying about time zone differences. Would any other high school or company allow its employee a year-long absence with full pay? Did TAS pay for her US medical insurance/bills?
2. Why did the Board change its bylaws without informing the TAS community?
3. Years ago, when the voting of the Board was still in paper ballot format, a parent in my child’s homeroom ran for the board. She said after the election, she was not invited to watch the counting of the ballots. She was only informed hours later that she was not elected. The TAS community and the candidates were not invited to witness the counting of the ballots.
4. I believe that there was a school policy that a board member could not serve continuously over 6 years without taking a one-year break from Board duties. Has this rule been removed? Why is it that Tina Koo is allowed to serve as the chair of the board for so long? There was a big push among the parents this year not to elect Koo, but she was still elected. This year’s voting was done electronically.
All good questions. Clearly TAS should go back to paper ballots and ballot counting that’s open to members, the same way the Taiwan government does it.
Ethical rules exist for journalism for a reason. They help a journalist find and share the whole truth, the whole story. That section of the rules is called “Seek Truth and Report It,” after all.
To the extent these allegations are true, there is much to unpack and much that is deeply disturbing. It is a newsworthy story to be sure.
But speaking as a journalist, it is profoundly problematic that you never even tried to get the other side of the story.
Now we will very likely never know the truth. None of these people will ever talk to you now, not now that you’ve made it clear you had no interest in even trying to get their side of the story before drawing your conclusions.
In the law, at least in my country, the accused has a right to defend themselves. And that’s because you can’t know the truth until you get their side of the story.
The same is true in journalism as well.
“Profoundly problematic?” “Very likely never know the truth?” The facts are all there. What’s profoundly problematic are the publicly available facts I’ve laid out here. You’re a journalist. Why don’t you start asking questions and present the other side of the story? As another anonymous commenter said, I’m just a food blogger.
I think more to question is why haven’t “professional” journalist ever touched this story? It’s Taipei’s worst kept secret yet never a peep from any news outlet. Questioning journalistic integrity when most media stories are Facebook related, food, or video of drunk people.
It took an amateur journalist to give a proper investigative, well-overdue news story. Not sure why all the sour grapes.
Maybe there’s a reason for that? Maybe they looked into the other side(s) of the story and decided there really wasn’t anything there?
Trust me on this one, they haven’t.
What Kathy did took work ethic, due diligence, and courage. Most new agencies in Taiwan have a attention span of a squirrel.
TAS is quite a powerful institution and people are afraid to touch it due to the rule of Hennessy and the powerful families involved. Lawsuits and threats are quite effective.
The article summarized and compiled many public articles and information that are linked at the end and vocalizes what many TAS parents have been hearing about for years. There are so many more questions and rumors that could have been talked about but weren’t. There are toxic problems going on at TAS and part of that is the attempt to cover up problems and point fingers elsewhere instead of at the true root of the problem. The problem isn’t whether or not she reached out for a response that she would have likely never gotten, it’s the culture that allows these problems to be known and fester, yet parents and students feel helpless to do anything to change it.
I mean, that’s your perspective? But the point is there are no doubt others. And none of them are adequately represented here. That’s not journalism.
The independent investigations from Branson and St Paul’s are one thing. Those are some compelling sources that reach some very troubling conclusions.
But these posts purport to be about another school entirely. And the sources explicitly about that school only include anonymous individuals, a pair of petitions, a tax form, and a news article from more than 15 years ago.
The author admits she never even attempted to contact the people she accused by name.
I know nothing about these people or this school. And you’re certainly entitled to your opinions. They may even be widely held, and you might even be right about the facts of the situation.
But this is not journalism.
If you’re going to write a wall of text and say you “know nothing”, then be specific. What facts are you disputing? And what‘s your opinion about Hennessy’s refusal to speak with Branson investigators in 2016?
Sharon Hennessy has always denied responsibility whenever sexual and corruption allegations come up. But they’ve managed to consistently surface around her. She never dares to speak on it, but the news articles about her and her behaviors tell us enough. SHAME. I cannot believe that she has enabled pedophiles, rapists, and criminals to run rampant.
I hope she repents and undergoes a long reflection. So much for values.
The author investigated and stated the facts to her story. You can leave it up to your own imagination why or how the$e event$ occurred.
Sounds like someone either doesn’t like their dirty laundry to be aired, or is in serious denial of obvious corrupt practices – no matter what wonderful country you live in.
How can one get another side of a story when that aide is obviously going to just deny everything? TAS has so much money, power, and monopoly. Do you think their side of the story would even be honest or transparent or true? The job of a journalist is to poke holes at fishy things and reveal to the world that that thing is indeed fishy and we need to be aware of it for it to change. K Cheng did an excellent job doing that. I am sure official news outlets were bribed or coerced into never saying a single bad word about TAS.
Why was my question deleted?
Did you contact the people named in this article for comment before posting?
Sorry, never mind. Technical difficulties on my end, I guess!
I didn’t. If anyone wants to speak to me they can get in touch. My goal was to share public information that can be found with a quick google search. Not to publish denial statements.
…Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.”
– SPJ Code of Ethics, https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
Really wild after all the facts in the posts you’re focused on MY ethics, not those of Alistair Grant, Sharon Hennessy or the Board. I’ll say it again: the kids are reading the posts and also these comments. They are watching how the adults at TAS handle this.
Hello Kathy, thank you for taking the time to write this article, it certainly provided a lot of clarity and answered a lot of my suspicions about the school. My ex-colleague used to work in the TAS finance department and she said it was as dark as you have highlighted it to be. Your article has been circulated by TAS alumns and will reach even more in the next few days.
I did not read all of the comments above, but I did catch some of David’s comments about the rape case of 2005, which was my graduating class. I was friends with the couple so I can confirm it was a consensual relationship. The girl was definitely older, more like 13 or 14, but it was a long time ago so I cannot confirm her age and I don’t have my yearbook right now. They were at her house, did dumb stuff, and her mother freaked out and blew up the news. It was a shocking moment of school history. The boy was one of the nicest guy in class so we were all really emotional when he left.
Honestly I don’t want a full-out essay war here but it was just very sad for me to read about the rape allegations when back then they were really in love. Majority of the class backed up the boy and believed he was more of the victim in this allegation. For those who did not agree on how a 12 year old could give consent, well, she wasn’t 12, and she did give her consent, and he was too stupid to think rationally.
I left my email so you may confirm my identity if you wish.
Thanks for your comment. As others have said, a 12-year-old child cannot give consent. And the legal age of consent is 16. Saying they were “in love” is similar to saying a teacher and student who are in a relationship are “in love”. It’s still wrong. The reaction of the mother is irrelevant.
I agree. I think the focus of this issue is being shifted because they were supposed to be a couple. It’s still wrong.
Well there are Romeo and Juliet laws for this very reason. Just saying.
The analogy you put forth is not very good. A teacher has decades of experience, money, power and wealth over a student. Two children under the age of 18, are literally on the same level. If you actually believe a 12-year-old can not give consent, then you probably don’t have a very critical mind and are probably sheltered from what is actually happening.
I was not the first sexual partner nor the only sexual partner for the girl. By the time I even knew her, she was extremely sexually active and had previous sexual encounters with guys. I was her 3rd, and during our relationship she cheated on my by having sex with at least 2 more. A local and another boy in the school.
Taiwan age of consent law is also 14 not 16. https://law.moj.gov.tw/Eng/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?PCode=C0000001
I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but you should do some due diligence.
Also Taiwan observes Romeo and Juliet laws, if you don’t understand what this, you really should read up and get educated over the topic.
All the statutory rape apologists on this are pretty horrifying. Why is it that Taiwan has a female president, yet there’s still so much gender inequality in all other walks of life? Why is it that Taiwan has such an epidemic of domestic violence?
All of you people who are trying to justify a 12-14 year old girl “giving consent” in having sex because she was “in love” with the fellow are part of the problem.
FULL STOP: a 12-14 year old girl CANNOT give consent. Start with that assumption, and then maybe we’ll make a dent in the objectification of girls and women throughout Taiwanese society.
Thanks for writing this Anon! I don’t know who you are but thanks for sticking out for me even after 15+ years. Your comments here is indeed true. The girl in question was not 12, she was 14. Her mother spun the story to the press to make it seem worse than it really was. She was after money after finding out our family had some level of wealth. And she used her daughter as a scapegoat to blame others for her absence and lack of parenting. The relationship was 100% consensual.
Did you contact the people named in this article for comment before posting?
Just to not that K. Cheng is sending email responses but not posting them here. Let’s go for full transparency, a nice journalistic tradition.
You are embarrassing yourself, and every other TAS alum and parent. You are precisely the problem: you care so much about the school’s reputation that you literally defended a 12 year old being taken advantage of. I would highly suggest a period of introspection instead of accosting the work of a blogger how has little to gain other than the truth.
I am pointing out the flaws in your story. The 12 year old was in love with an older boy. That happens in the real world. Your mission seems to be publishing slanted articles about TAS to promote your blog. I’m sure you won’t approve my post, because many of your emails have not been posted. The fact you keep evading is this: the sexual activity took place off-campus and was in no way the responsibility of the school. If you consider yourself a journalist you will allow this to be posted. If not, I rest my case. I really don’t expect to see this posted on your site.
Please remove most/all comments by David. It’s obvious he is not here for a healthy discussion. You said he handled the communication for the rape case. He said he handled the communication for the rape case. He is clearly biased and when he’s not attacking you, he’s attacking a point in your article that has very little do with your general intent. Let him advocate rape and blame the mother somewhere else.
Agree. I won’t be approving any more of his comments. He’s already sent a couple of dumb remarks straight from the 2004 Internet Troll Playbook.
No, please continue approving his comments. He is setting himself up to be cancelled.
As an alumni I’d like to see all of his comments however disturbing it is to you.
Leave another comment and use your email address. I’ll send it.
It’s quite disappointing , I agree with “ another tas alumni” all the comments made by Chard. I’m also an alumni…
David, rape is baaad.
It’s not natural, it’s not love, and it wasn’t a relationship. It’s surreal that you are unable to comprehend this.
According to Mr. Chard’s argument then, the current disciplinary action by the school for the videos that were circulated should then be repealed. It also happened not during school and “took place off-campus and was in no way the responsibility of the school.“
In your latest email you have labeled me a “demagogue.” Instead of addressing the content of my posts, you resort to ad hominem attacks on my character. What are you afraid of? You are the one, Mi Cheng, who is embarrassing yourself. You have failed as a journalist and the only thing you seem to be able to do is to make character attacks on those how point out the flaws in your article. By the way, ad hominem is in the dictionary, look it up. I’ll be quite surprised to see this comment actually posted.
You’re upset because people are disturbed by your ideas on free love. It doesn’t warrant bullying the female author of the story. I have seen this tactic by posters on Forumosa and it’s not a good look.
I for one applaud her for publishing this article. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of what goes on up in The Truman Show (Tianmu). You would think that an actual news outlet would pick up this low hanging fruit up. Maybe they will after this. Like to think they haven’t because of the leverage TAS alumni has but my bet it’s just laziness.
Tip – unclick the below for not getting emails from this site ;-)
By the way… “Who” is also in the dictionary
“… on those how point out the flaws”
Wow David. Thanks for showing your white privilege and misogyny.
(and no, I’m not de-anonymizing myself b/c I know what happens to women on the internet).
Kathy please delete this racist filth
I’m receiving emails with comment made by K, Cheng that are not posted here. What’s up with that?
I manually approve all comments. Otherwise the comments of every single post would be full of spam ads.
And yet, Ms Cheng, you defend the use of anonymous commentary by your sources. What’s up with that? Contradiction much?
I’m guessing you’re not in this 58%:
“Fully 58 percent of the public say (correctly) that when journalists refer to anonymous sources it means the journalist knows the source’s identity, has checked the information the source provided, and then withheld the source’s name in their news report.”
From this article:
What Americans know, and don’t, about how journalism works
Not sure about some of the allegations being made here. First, on the fundraising practice of the school. You portray this as if this is shady. It is anything but that. The most reputable private non-profit educational institutions in the world follow this practice whether that be at the secondary or the tertiary level. This is done in order to offer the attendees great opportunities both during their time there and after graduation. Parents and other members of the TAS community are free to choose whether to give or not, or be part of this community as a whole.
Second, on the relatively high compensation of school admin, staff, and faculty. Not entirely sure of your point here. This is how the market compensates those who in their eyes are valuable. If Hennessy, or anyone else, had done a bad job of running and operating the school then I would doubt that they would have been in charge for so long or compensated so highly. I don’t see the relevancy here.
It seems by the way you portray these two items above that you obviously have a biased aversion to wealthy private schools. Of course, you are free to have an opinion, but just wanted to point that out.
Next, on the sexual abuse scandals that you mention — both in 2003 and from 2009-2011. You argue that the school could have communicated these events quicker, and also more transparently. However, have you really done your due diligence on this topic? Did the TAS community demand reports and responses on these cases at the time, with urgency? It seems that the 2009-2011 case has been brought to light because of new allegations, and therefore the school released a statement as soon as this became a topic of note.
Further, you portray that the school could be covering the sexual misconduct based on your claim that the law firm they contracted had previous engagements with the school, therefore they are not “impartial.” Contrary to your assertion, individuals and institutions often have pre-existing relationships with service providers so that they are able call upon them when needed. Nothing irregular here.
Full disclosure, I am a former alumni of the school. My experience there was hugely positive. In fact, I believe it’s not controversial to say that the school is be the best international school in Taiwan, and one of the best in Asia. With that being said, of course TAS could improve, and the Alistair Grant case is definitely troubling. However, your articles are obviously biased against the school. I’ve read some of your previous commentary on TAS as well, and it seems you have an agenda to throw shade on the institution. Perhaps this is a tactic to drive more engagement with your site (and in turn make you more money on ads), and it’s working — these articles are your most popular! The school may not be perfect, but it is no where near the nefarious institution that you make it out to be.
If you wanted to give full disclosure you could have written the comment under your real name. Ads were turned off for these two posts very soon after they went live.
Now you try to find fault with the way the comment was posted, rather than addressing the comments. That is a defensive tactic. Better to listen to the comments and take them on board. No school is perfect and there are always politics going on between parents and the school. Your article is slanted against TAS and you have been called out on that. If you want credibility, it is up to you to address the comments on their merit, instead of making ad hominem attacks. The ball is in your court Ms. Cheng.
David, it’s really hard to take you seriously when can’t even be sure if the boy was 14 or 17 years old.
Nope, I only wanted to disclose I was an alumni!
Also, good on you for turning off ads on the posts…but pretty sure some of the increased traffic will end up on other landing pages with ads…meaning more ad revenue for you!
The site makes peanuts, don’t worry. There’s a reason the state of English media in Taiwan is so dismal. The audience is too small. You’d have to go the clickbait route just to break even. I do appreciate your comment. I feel as an outsider I tried to present the facts as objectively as possible, with all public information that can be very quickly verified. Also my sources are all legitimate, despite them asking for anonymity (which I’m sure you understand!)
I’m going to make this simple for you.
Article claims that Hennessy overlooked a gross sexual misconduct because she was more interested in preserving the image of the school (Her reaction to the latest scandal further supports this profiling – go read pt. 1 again if need be.). Preserving the image of the school has a direct link to her salary which has doubled in such short amount of time…
Yet you claim there is no relevancy here..?
We’re all happy that you had an overall positive experience during your time in TAS but maybe go back to school if you can’t follow this conversation.