The Boston Children’s Theatre has hired a law firm to investigate accusations of inappropriate behavior by its former director, Burgess Clark .
In a letter the besieged organization sent to parents Thursday, the board also said it has engaged an outside specialist to review its internal policies, including hiring, supervision of students, and how the group solicits feedback from parents.
The outside specialist, Jetta Bernier, is the director of MassKids and the “Enough Abuse Campaign” to prevent child sexual abuse in schools and youth organizations. Jackson Lewis is the law firm leading the investigation, according to James Solomon, the interim president of the Children’s Theatre.
Bernier said she would work with the theater’s leadership, including parents, “to make sure that we don’t only identify the strengths but also some of the possible gaps” in their practices.
The theater told parents it had little information on the specific allegations and that no families have approached the board or the theater with accusations of impropriety.
But the board said it would host a town hall on Sunday for parents.
“I imagine that you have many questions at this time,” the board wrote, outlining some of those questions in a bulleted list: “What is alleged to have happened; If true, how this could have happened; As a parent, how can I have faith that my child will be safe in your care; What can BCT do to tighten policies of supervision; How can we as a community find a way to move forward; What does this mean for Boston Children’s Theatre’s future.”
The decades-old theater company has found itself at the center of a storm over the past two weeks, since Clark, the organization’s esteemed director, resigned at the end of October.
Two days after his departure, more than a dozen former students sent an anonymous letter to the board describing negative experiences with Clark, including acting classes where they said students kissed or ended up in sexually suggestive positions during physical risk-taking exercises. Three claimed in the letter that Clark kissed or inappropriately touched them during private lessons or at his second home in Walden, Vt. The Essex district attorney’s office and Beverly police have said they are investigating. No charges have been filed.
The Globe also found that Clark and his partner, Daniel Blake, had been reprimanded for their behavior with students at a youth arts camp in Colorado in 2004. Earlier this week, Solomon said the theater had cut ties with Blake, describing him as a “vendor” who offered voice coaching to students.
Toby Schine, the director of the children’s theater who has stayed on, shares a home with Clark and Blake in Beverly. The three of them bought the home together in 2006, according to deed records. Schine has now brought in Bernier to review the organization’s policies.
On Blake’s part, he has said that he will continue offering vocal lessons to students. In an e-mail obtained by the Globe, Blake told the parents and students he worked with this week, “I am sure that you are aware of the recent allegations. North Shore Vocal Studio remains open.”
He added, “If you choose to withdraw, I will certainly understand but I wanted to assure you that my students have, have had and always will have a safe place.” Blake, Clark, and Schine did not respond to requests for comment.
The community of current parents and teachers at the children’s theater remains split over the allegations and the path forward.
“It’s great. I think if anyone has any questions, they can go and ask them,” Marci Johnson, whose daughter has been involved with the theater for nearly five years, said of the parent gathering scheduled for Sunday. Johnson said her daughter had a voice lesson with Blake on Friday afternoon.
By Tuesday, the organization’s board had dwindled to four people.
“Please realize the Board is currently small, and working hard to address every concern,” the remaining board members wrote in the letter to parents.