According to a 1990 article in the Washington Post, the headmasters from seven prestigious Washington, D.C.-area private schools sent a joint letter that year to parents, warning them that their children had developed a party culture that included heavy drinking leading to “sexual or violent behavior.”
One of the schools was Georgetown Prep, from which Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh graduated in 1983. Christine Blasey Ford, who during congressional testimony on Thursday described being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in 1982, attended one of the other schools, Holton-Arms.
The Post article also reported that before the letter was sent, Georgetown Prep had “held a conference with parents to discuss the problem of unsupervised parties.”
Malcolm Coates, then-headmaster of the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland, is quoted saying that the schools decided to write the letter jointly “to give it more impact. … The fact that seven schools decided it was enough of a problem to address it is significant.”
The Post also quoted Charles P. Lord, then-headmaster at Holton-Arms, saying that “a number of parents and kids have expressed dismay over some of the situations at weekend parties. … We’re concerned about the potential for tragedy.”
The Intercept has not independently obtained the 1990 letter. The seven schools that sent it either could not find it in their records, or did not respond to inquiries. Georgetown Prep directed The Intercept to a recent general statement: “The problems and abuses of alcohol and drugs, sexual assault and misconduct, emotional and physical violence toward others are real. … But it is demonstrably false that such behavior or culture is tolerated, still less encouraged, at Georgetown Prep.”
Of the seven school headmasters in 1990, several, including Coates and Lord, have since died. The others declined to comment or could not be located.
Andrew C. Lottmann, then a news aide at the Post who contributed to the report, graduated in 1988 from St. Albans, another school in the letter. “[Excessive drinking] happened at all the schools,” Lottmann remembers. “Yes, absolutely.”
“I think that at these schools, there are children of wealthy and politically important people, and there are some who certainly acted as though there [were] little consequences for their actions,” recalls Lottmann. While “there were people who ran with the party crowd who were good people. … The core of it is there were certainly some people who acted as though there were no ramifications for their actions.” However, he says, he has “no direct knowledge” of sex or sexual violence at parties during his high school years.
Binge drinking was also a notable issue at Washington, D.C.-area public schools during this period. In 1989, the Post published an article headlined, “Kids and Booze: It’s 10 O’Clock — Do You Know How Drunk Your Children Are?” The piece quotes one student saying that she had felt “trapped” by her drinking, and had experienced frequent blackouts. Another described school parties as “really sordid. Parents have little idea of what is going on.”
A recent study found that drinking decreased among American teenagers from 1991 to 2015, particularly among boys and children from better-off families. A publication from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health states, “We all feel the effects of the aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, violence, and deaths that can result from underage drinking,” and warns that “underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.”