Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Begins Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Abuse at the Cate School

18 miles outside of Santa Barbara, Cate School in Carpinteria, California is one of the most esteemed private boarding schools in the United States. Founded in 1910, the annual tuition for the 2021 school year is $68,150 for boarding students and $53,750 for day students.

On June 24th, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office served Cate School, with search warrants to gather potential evidence of abuse on its campus. The school was served just one week after the Cate School’s longtime rival, the Thacher School, released its 91-page report outlining a history of sexual abuse on its campus.

The Thacher School’s internal investigation was sparked by the anonymous Instagram page, @rpecultureatthacher, where survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories. Similarly, in March of 2021 an anonymous Instagram account, @womenofcateschool, was launched as A safe space for the people of Cate—past and present—to share their experiences with misogyny.” The page allowed survivors to DM or use an anonymous Google form to share their stories.

The posts on @womenofcateschool have since been removed, but on June 17th a new Instagram account, @metoocate, took up the mantle as “An independent, safe space for Cate community to anonymously share about sexual abuse/exploitation @ Cate.@metoocate began by asking the question, “What happened to you on the Mesa?” referring to the school’s 150-acre campus. They have since been sharing stories of sexual violence at Cate as well as updates about the case.

The joint investigation into Cate School by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff and District Attorney Offices began on April 1st, 2021, after a mandated reporter from outside of the school shared allegations of abuse by a former employee. The County’s investigation comes months after Cate School quietly launched their own internal investigation into faculty on student sexual abuse using the independent law firm of Amy Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer’s investigation began in October of 2020 and their report has not yet been released to students, alumni, or the public.

According to a statement from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, “Detectives have identified several sexual assault survivors in this case who are both current and former students of Cate School.”

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office is working to identify survivors. Anyone with information related to the investigation can contact Detective Sergeant Mark Valencia at 805-681-4150 or can contact the Victim-Witness Assistance Program directly at 805-568-2400 or toll free at 855-840-3232 to speak to a Victim Advocate.

You can read the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Office’s statement about their investigation of Cate School here.