GROTON -- Critics of transparency at boarding schools and other educational institutions have glared at the child abuse loophole for decades.
After receiving a report of abuse on their campus, officials decide whether the school should investigate the alleged abuse or if police should get involved, the critics emphasize.
Far too often, this policy has allowed schools to cover-up scandals involving school personnel, according to advocates who want this protocol overhauled and the loophole closed.
One of these champions for change is Vanessa (Fadjo) Osage, who last year told The Sun about a former Lawrence Academy groundskeeper sexually molesting her in the 1990s, when she was 14 years old.
Osage is now moving forward with a proposal, the Justice CORPS Initiative, that she says would empower students and gives families the right to decide how abuse matters are handled -- ensuring abuse is not swept under the rug by school leaders.
Preventing abuse and cover-ups at schools has been her mission for the last 25 years, she stressed.
"We need to resolve the cover-up problem once-and-for-all," said Osage, who now lives in Washington state. "This structure would bring about positive change in schools."
She has submitted the Justice CORPS Initiative to Lawrence Academy multiple times in the last year.
The latest 9-page iteration of the proposal, evolved with the help of professionals in education and child abuse prevention around the country, was sent to the school last month.
It has been radio silence from the school, Osage said.
"They say they don't need this, but this is still a very pressing need there," she said of Lawrence Academy.
A Lawrence Academy spokesman declined to respond to questions about Osage and the Justice CORPS Initiative.
Osage's proposal would bring together a group of non-affiliated adults who act as a volunteer oversight board -- receiving and reporting on abuse incidents at the school.
The school year would begin with an assembly to introduce the Justice CORPS members and train students, faculty and staff on expectations for behavior, how to report abuse, and what happens following reports of abuse.
Students would be able to anonymously report the incidents to the Justice CORPS. There would be a monthly recording of incident reports, incidents verified, and a score of the responses enacted by school officials. The annual report would be available for public review.
"The school doesn't get to intercept that loop," Osage said. "It becomes an honest record of abuse, a true record of how well schools are responding to abuse."
One of the goals is to ultimately decrease the incidence of child abuse on high school campuses by 50 percent or more, in three-year cycles, until there is none, Osage said.
The Justice CORPS Initiative is a proposal through The Amends Project, which Osage started online. Last week, she filed articles of incorporation for The Amends Project to be a registered nonprofit in Washington.
She's now seeking grants to get the Justice CORPS funded, and launch a pilot program for the 2019/2020 school year.
"I'm highly motivated to get things in place and move forward with this by May," Osage said.
Last year, The Sun reported that Osage alleges the former groundskeeper at the private boarding school, Peter Regis, sexually molested her in the 1990s. She was 14 at the time; he was 39. Regis worked at the school for seven years after she reported the molestation incidents in his shop under the dorm, she said.
Osage spoke out in the wake of Lawrence Academy asking people to come forward if they have any information about past or current sexual misconduct. Osage said last year she wanted a $500,000 settlement from the school for losses and damages, and for the school to accept legal liability for all crimes committed on campus.
She has now lowered that figure to $400,000 -- which she points out is 20 percent of her former attorney's $2 million demand in 2017.
"I'm going to follow this Justice CORPS through before revisiting the settlement with them," Osage said.
In a statement last year to The Sun, Lawrence Academy Head of School Dan Scheibe wrote, "Had the same set of circumstances presented themselves today, there is no question that we would have immediately terminated the staff member from employment at the school."
The school wrote to Osage: "We believe that you have been courageous and honest with us; we believe the perpetrator's actions were wrong; and we believe that the school should have done more to support you."
The school countered her proposal with a $25,000 offer; she would have to sign a confidentiality agreement, and the school would not admit legal liability, according to a letter from Scheibe. Osage presented additional documents about the abuse; the school came back with a $75,000 offer with the same confidentiality and release of legal claims.
Another alleged victim then came forward last year to report misconduct by Regis.
The school, under the authorization of the Board of Trustees, responded by engaging Sanghavi Law Office to perform an independent investigation into reports or allegations involving Regis. Sanghavi Law Office has completed similar investigations with several independent schools, colleges and universities in the region.
Upon completion of the investigation, Sanghavi Law Office will provide a report, findings of which the school will share with the community. Anonymous identifiers will be used to protect the privacy of those involved.
"The investigation and subsequent report by the Sanghavi Law Office are not yet finished, but we do expect them to be complete sometime in the spring," a Lawrence Academy spokesman wrote last week.