Latin School of Chicago Named in Yet Another Lawsuit
School withheld diplomas and transcripts from two seniors tossing them into college limbo, ruining their graduation
The old idiom, “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck,” directly applies to the Latin School of Chicago for what increasingly appears to be a hostile, bullying environment for both students and parents alike.
Both Chicago Contrarian and many other media outlets have covered the story of the $100 million lawsuit filed against the Latin School by Rosellene and Robert Bronstein for its role in the suicide of 15-year-old Nate Bronstein, a former student there.
Recently, Latin stands accused of failing to deliver school records (as highlighted in a recent Chicago Tribune article) to the parents of Nate, who took his own life in early 2022 due to repeated bullying and cyberbullying at the hands of students at school-sanctioned events. Nevertheless, Latin’s latest blunder shows how far this school has fallen in its treatment of students.
In the latest Latin offense, a pair of graduating twins were allowed to walk but not receive their diplomas nor transcripts for college matriculation due to a dispute between the school and the twins’ mother, Katie O’Dea.
Ms. O’Dea had left her role as the school’s director of communications after 16 years in November 2022 (according to her LinkedIn profile), holding a valid enrollment contract for her children to finish the academic year after paying the agreed upon discounted sum. Yet her children were still denied their diplomas and transcripts.
O’Dea filed a lawsuit on June 27 along with her husband, Daniel McKee, and their children, Molly and Hugh McKee.
At issue: A benefit commonly offered to employees of private schools to increase the overall benefits package is a reduction in tuition for their children. The programs typically allow staff and administrators to send their kids to school at a drastically discounted tuition rate while a parent serves as an employee of the school. Although O’Dea resigned from her position during the fall of the 2022-2023 academic year, the actual enrollment contract neither referenced any employment agreement nor had O’Dea put anything in writing to that effect, according to the complaint.
Latin: Breaching its enrollment contract?
From a legal perspective, Latin appears to have breached its own contract (Latin was provided the opportunity to provide comment to Chicago Contrarian for this article but did not respond).
After much back and forth between the McKee’s parents and new Head Thomas Hagerman, according to the filing, Latin then referred Katie O’Dea and husband Daniel McKee to the Employee Handbook stipulating reduced tuition applies only to current employees of the school.
Interestingly, the school in this case, relied on its employee handbook for rules and guidance, but in the Bronstein case, the school decided the handbook’s rules and guidance need not apply.
Rules for me and not for thee
A statement on the lawsuit provided to Contrarian by Danielle Gould, the attorney representing the McKee family, read:
“After filing the lawsuit and informing counsel for the Latin School of Chicago that the family would be seeking a court order to ensure transcripts would be sent to the McKee children’s respective colleges in a timely manner so that they can attend college this fall, Latin agreed to provide the transcripts and diplomas. While the family is relieved that their children’s futures are no longer hanging in the balance, that does little to impact the strain and distress Latin caused this family. Also, it is deeply concerning that the Head of School would not meet with the children or their parents to figure out a solution, and that it took a lawsuit to ensure the colleges would get the transcripts. While the school has now provided the transcripts, Latin still claims that the family owes an additional $45,000 intuition, which is contrary to the plain and clear language of the re-enrollment contracts. We will address all remaining issues in the lawsuit in due course.”
Based on the complaint, both Molly and her brother Hugh had been upstanding members of the Latin student body. The kids had attended the school since junior kindergarten.
Both kids were accepted to top universities: Molly will enroll at Drexel University this fall while her brother Hugh won acceptance to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. However, to matriculate, all high school seniors are required to have their high schools submit final transcripts to their chosen colleges.
Neither Molly nor Hugh could matriculate because Latin refused to send transcripts saying the parents needed to pay up their full tuition at a cost of approximately $70,000. When Katie O’Dea and Daniel McKee referenced their enrollment contract with the school, Latin, living up to its reputation for institutional narcissism and bullying, refused to acknowledge the enrollment contract, the only legal document that mattered in the case.
The parents were literally unsure as to whether their children would be allowed to walk in graduation and attend university in the fall.
Then, in a remarkable, last-minute reversal, Thomas Hagerman, the new Head of School, who replaced Randall Dunn, who had served as Head while Nate Bronstein attended Latin, allowed the McKee children to walk during graduation. Inexplicably, Molly and Hugh McKee received only a blank diploma at the graduation ceremony. According to the lawsuit, the McKee children were driven to tears at the slight, as they were surrounded by peers, all of whom had received valid diplomas and were smiling for the cameras.
Up until the day of graduation (and after in fact, as their transcripts were still withheld), Molly and Hugh did not know whether they would be able to walk with their peers, nor attend college.
Does Latin do what it says?
“For more than 130 years we’ve put students at the heart of everything we do…” Latin asserts on its school homepage.
Some may beg to differ. That is, unless Latin is sued to meet contractual obligations, at which point the school did an immediate about face.
Latin, upon receiving the legal complaint, also belatedly sent the transcripts to the universities the McKee children were to attend in the fall. The question surrounding tuition itself remains unresolved as of press time. The case asks for relief for breach of contract as well as consumer fraud.
Meanwhile, the Latin School of Chicago remains a member of accreditation body NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools, considered a “cartel” by some industry watchers). Nearly all of the school administrators, including the Dean of the Upper School, Head of the School, Assistant to the Head of School, Upper School Director, etc. all resigned after the Bronstein lawsuit was filed in April 2022.
The new seven-figure priesthood
Randall Dunn took his six-figure assistant Kristin Provenchur with him to Rye Country Day School where he earns a cool seven-figure salary.
A parent of a graduate from a local NAIS school in Chicago who is also a graduate of a different NAIS school suggests that Latin is not alone among formerly “elite” NAIS peers:
“There is a preponderance of evidence that NAIS schools (beyond Latin) cover up bullying, harassment and even sexual abuse and the individuals involved end up at other NAIS schools with a string of coverups along the way. It’s like the priesthood during the time of peak abuse scandals- offenders are kept in the system all the while their superiors continue to be promoted. Interestingly, many continue to receive increased salaries as they are moved up and out to other schools within the NAIS.”
In fact, according to this parent:
“This behavior appears to be allowed because the vast majority of parents in these schools only care about their children’s college matriculation strategy. They are unwilling to call out evil and illegal acts within their community because that could get in the way of the plan they have for their children, hurting their chances of admissions at preferred universities.”
Yet some are protected from abuse.
The parent suggests that the only protected classes of administrators, teachers and students at these schools score high on the “progressive critical social justice identity pinwheel.” In other words, if they are black, brown or LGBTQ. If one of these protected classes is bullied, the accused are held to account instantly, the parent notes, (sometimes without a fair trial, he adds).
While everybody should be held to the same standard, in today’s rampant Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) world, only those who can check a “protected identity are indeed protected at these schools,” he concludes.
Yet others disagree, suggesting that Latin is merely a cog in an institutional wheel that serves only itself and fellow NAIS member schools.
According to a popular Instagram account, Survivors of Latin, even “Victims” on the race and gender intersectionality scale believe Latin exists for one purpose: “Latin serves Latin — they do that which is in the best interest of the school.”
All the while senior leaders line their pockets along the way, going from six figures to seven figures as they move from Latin to other NAIS schools, even after being at the very center of scandals so great they could bring down the reputations (not to mention endowments and balance sheets) of entire institutions.