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Dear

Blair Magnet Faculty,



Over the past few weeks, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, many
Magnet alumni have been discussing the pattern of inappropriate behavior
perpetrated by former Magnet teacher Eric Walstein. Over the course of his career
at Blair, Walstein habitually made inappropriate sexist and sexual comments to and
about the female students he taught. As students, our experiences varied. Some
suffered through uncomfortable classroom environments and observed the sexual
harassment of our peers; some received individually targeted harassment. The
effects of Walstein’s behavior on our psychological well-beings were also varied,
personal, and complex.
Discussing these experiences today as alumni, our emotions range from
confusion to disgust to anger. Varied, too, are our opinions of you and your
accountability. Many of us understand the difficult thought process behind the
decision to grit one’s own teeth and keep one’s own head down as a victim of
harassment. However, some of us feel betrayed and hurt by the fact that for more
than twenty years, faculty members seemed unwilling to speak up in defense of the
underage students being sexually harassed, for whom they were supposed to be
acting in loco parentis. While we alumni realize that we currently don’t and may
never have complete knowledge of any discussions that happened behind office
doors, we do wonder how much other Magnet teachers knew about Walstein’s
pattern of behavior. It is clear that for more than twenty years, any actions taken to
address it were woefully insufficient. Some of us wish to know the reasoning behind
the faculty’s failure to protect female Magnet students. Others have no desire to
dwell on this part of the past, instead wishing to focus solely on preventing this type
of harassment from ever occurring in the future.
Considering these variations in experiences and reactions, we have decided it
best to collectively open a dialogue by assembling a compilation of experiences that
speak for themselves. We present these events from the past and ask that you read
each entry and reflect: Reflect upon the action you decided to take at the time of the
incident, and what you could have done differently to gather the knowledge and
power to stop Walstein’s pattern of harassment in its tracks. Reflect upon the details
of each entry that differentiate Walstein’s behavior from behavior appropriate for a
high school teacher. Reflect upon what you can do now and in the future to identify
inappropriate behavior such as Walstein’s when it arises, and what you can do to
end it.
As you read through this collection of experiences, we also ask that you
notice how each individual’s education was impacted by Walstein’s actions. While
sexual harassment of underage students is upsetting in and of itself, Walstein’s
behavior had an additional effect of harming girls’ educations. Eric Walstein was
lauded by many as a champion of mathematics education, but we ask you: education
for whom? Fear of Walstein’s sexual harassment drove many girls away from
actively participating in class, from asking for help outside of class, and from
enrolling in his classes altogether. We hope that going forward, you will value the
education of all Magnet students equally, including girls who simply wish to be
respected as they pursue their interests in mathematics and science.
Eric Walstein may have retired, but sexual harassment of students by
teachers can happen again unless the past is acknowledged and used to inform
meaningful changes in policy. We expect you to discuss and implement these
changes with the priority that they deserve. And we ask that you create accessible
avenues of communication for those of us who wish to learn about these changes
and continue the dialogue that has been started today. We hope that alumni,
students, faculty, and the program itself all emerge from this period of reflection
stronger than before. There are numerous alumni—angry and hopeful, exhausted
and impassioned, recently graduated and decades removed from high school—who
want to continue this process of uncovering the past and improving the future. We
have shared our stories and begun the process; now it is your turn to continue it.


Sincerely,
380 Blair Magnet Alumni, and counting