Allegations of sexual abuse on campus were addressed at length by Institute President Mark Maxwell at Monday night's regularly scheduled Friends of Prairie meeting.
Friends of Prairie, led by Neville Wilkins, is a community-based group that encourages the 89-year-old school through volunteerism and other support mechanisms.
President Maxwell's presentation focused on what was said and what has happened as a result of the recent allegations.
What was said
For several months, a Facebook group has been collecting negative comments on Prairie; particularly, allegations of sexual abuse from as far back as 30 to 50 years. A key player in this negative group, a former Prairie student, has threatened a class-action lawsuit if the school does not engage the services of a specified American mediator before year's end.
What was done
In commenting on the current media storm swirling throughout the province, across the continent, and around the Internet, Maxwell said the Institute, after painstaking consultation with its Board of Directors and legal firm, decided to be pro-active by presenting a compilation of the negative Facebook allegations directly to the Three Hills RCMP.
"We told the police," said Maxwell, "they would find Prairie most helpful and co-operative if there is any substance to the allegations and if they felt a need to investigate."
Monday's meeting, attended by over 80, was told that to date, the police have found no victims or perpetrators.
"We have a simple goal," said Maxwell. "Great transparency. We want to determine if anyone was hurt and to co-operate with the authorities in appropriately addressing that situation, whatever it might be. But the RCMP told me they will not pursue anything without a victim and that as of Monday, they have not opened an investigation."
With regard to the potential of a class-action lawsuit, Maxwell pointed to his legal advice which said such action had a very remote chance of making it to court, let alone culminating in success.
"What we found," said Maxwell, "was mostly innuendo. And we have already done much to achieve the complainant's goal by taking the pre-emptive step of involving an impartial third party—the RCMP."
Maxwell told the Monday meeting he has received an email from a former student stating that what happened to her many years ago falls within the realm of abuse. In addition to emphatically saying "we will most certainly look into it" Maxwell said the police will be involved only if the former student wants to pursue such action. The whereabouts of the alleged perpetrator are unknown; it is not known if this person is still alive.
Life in the president's chair over the last few days has been hectic: receiving dozens of supportive emails, talking to the police, conducting media interviews, and consulting with staff, students, faculty, lawyers, alumni, the Friends of Prairie group, board members, and still finding time to assure meetings that, "We don't need to worry about defending the school's reputation. God can take care of that. Our part is to be open, honest, and co-operative."
In his comments, Three Hills Mayor Tim Shearlaw said, "I regret there is a cloud over Prairie at this time because of these allegations. It affects the school and it affects the town. We must defend Prairie and Three Hills."