Conference Speakers

Jon Seiger was just a month into the seventh grade at Horace Mann when he was first sexually abused on an overnight school trip by teacher-chaperone. Between that night and Jon's 1979 graduation, he would be abused, "hundreds of times" by eight faculty members at Horace Mann, an elite 127-year-old private school in the Bronx that counts members of Congress, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, scientists and leaders of industry among its alumni. According to an independent investigation led by Judge Leslie Crocker, Jon was one of at least 63 students (five of them female) who were sexually abused by 22 former Horace Mann staff members between 1962 and 1996.

Jon will share his unique perspectives on the impact of sexual abuse on children and how schools and youth organizations are positioned to play a key role in changing the culture of safety for children, not only in the institutions that serve them but in our communities at large.

David Wolowitz, Esq. has been a legal advocate and advisor for the protection of vulnerable individuals in institutional and educational settings throughout his 40+ year legal career. He is a pioneer in applying behavioral risk management concepts to enhance healthy cultures in independent schools. He trains teachers, administrators, and trustees, nationwide and internationally, on how to promote healthy relationships with students, how to recognize and address early signs of inappropriate behavior, and how to respond to allegations of misconduct. David serves as a consultant to independent schools experiencing critical incidents relating to student health and safety and assists them in meeting the evolving standard of care for protecting students. David also serves as an expert witness on the standards that must be reflected in independent school policies and procedures.

David’s successful suit against Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center in July, 2000, for institutional misconduct and employee sexual abuse of a teenage resident was featured on the public radio show Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting, in the 2015 series “A Mountain of Misconduct”. His first two cases before the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1977 and 1978 helped establish due process rights, including the right to counsel, for persons facing civil commitment to the New Hampshire Hospital and for residents of the Laconia State School facing guardianship hearings.

Dr. Melinda Gushwa is a researcher, Associate Professor, and MSW Program Director at Simmons College School of Social Work. She researched and co-authored, “Advancing Child Sexual Abuse Prevention in Schools: An Exploration of the Effectiveness of the Enough! Online Training Program for K-12 Teachers”, published in 2018 in the Journal on Child Sexual Abuse. Dr. Gushwa has more than 25 years of practice experience in the areas of juvenile justice, residential treatment, child protection, employee assistance, crisis intervention counseling, pediatric medical social work, child welfare training, clinical practice, and clinical supervision. Prior to coming to Simmons, Dr. Gushwa taught in the social work programs at Washington University in St. Louis, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, University of Nevada Las Vegas and Rhode Island College.

Justine Finn founded Relation-Shift at the Harvard Innovation Lab in order to end sexual violence, promote healthier relationships and create safer schools. Justine has worked for the past twelve years to advance the equality of women and men, facilitating classes, workshops and seminars across the country on gender, media representation and the prevention of sexual and relationship violence and bullying. Relation-Shift was awarded the Entrepreneurship in Education Award from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has become the go-to resource for K-12 schools working to prevent relationship and sexual violence.

Prior to starting Relation-Shift, Justine served as the Washington DC Respect Challenge campaign manager for Futures Without Violence and in social services and development at the Tahirih Justice Center for five years, a national nonprofit organization that protects immigrant women and girls refusing to become victims of violence. Previously, Justine worked as a college teacher in Nanjing, China and as a communications specialist and reporter in Chicago. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Education, with a focus on human development and psychology, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut Michael Rinaldi discovered his passion for teaching while volunteering in 11th grade to support special needs students at Westhill High School.  During his 30-year career as an educator in Stamford Public Schools, Mr. Rinaldi taught 5th grade special education, 7th grade social studies, and also English to middle and high school students for a year in Utuado, Puerto Rico.

In 2011, while Assistant Principal at Stamford High School, Mike and his colleagues reported the school’s principal for covering up reports of sexual assault by a teacher against a student. The subsequent response of the Superintendent and Stamford Board of Education compelled Mr. Rinaldi to speak out publicly against what was happening not only in his city but nationwide regarding the practice, popularly referred to as, “passing the trash,” that is, negotiating a confidential separation agreement with an employee involved in sexual misconduct, and providing stellar references to support the person’s future employment in other schools.  

Mr. Rinaldi's actions have been credited in helping to bring these abhorrent practices to light in the state of Connecticut, which ultimately lead to passage of a law in his state prohibiting the practice.  In 2017, the Stamford Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint him Principal of Westhill High School where he provides leadership to 2,500 students and 200 certified staff.

Elizabeth Quincy McLaughlin is a clinical social worker and consultant to schools and nonprofits on a range of behavioral issues where she emphasizes best approaches to enhancing community life and creating safe, supportive learning environments for students. She trains faculty, staff leaders, and administrators on promoting healthy boundaries, establishing behavioral standards, managing risks, responding to boundary violations, and designing the school environment for accountability.

Prior to her new position as Head of Upper School at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, she was the Dean of Student Well-being, Chair of the Human Development Department, and Coordinator of the Community Conduct Council at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. There she coordinated investigations and responses to concerns about faculty behavior and potential violations of the “Code of Ethical Conduct for Employees in Relation to Students,” and provided coaching related to faculty boundaries. She provided clinical social work services previously at Children’s Hospital in Albany and was an instructor in Behavioral Pediatrics at Albany Medical College. She received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her Masters in Social Work from Smith College.

Rush L. Russell has served as the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey (PCANJ) for nearly 10 years. In 2011, he led efforts that established the Enough Abuse Campaign in New Jersey and the statewide New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. Under his leadership the Campaign has been expanded to six major counties across the state and thousands of parents and professionals have now been trained to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. In 2012, he developed and published the “New Jersey Safe-Child Standards” whose policies were formally adopted by the NJ Department of Children and Families. Under that Commissioner’s directive the standards are being implemented by all state-supported youth organizations. In 2018, Rush led advocacy efforts resulting in unanimous passage of the New Jersey “pass the trash” legislation, making it the 7th state in the U.S. to adopt the law. In 2014, he was awarded the federal Administration for Children, Youth and Families Commissioner’s Award recognizing his leadership on the issues of preventing child sexual abuse and human sex trafficking in New Jersey.

Prior to coming to PCANJ, Rush served as Senior Vice President for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. He was also the founder and President of Children’s Futures, a comprehensive effort to improve early childhood health and development for all children in Trenton, New Jersey. In philanthropy, he served as a Senior Program Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and as Executive Director for the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. He also served as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Bill Bradley in Washington D.C. and Director for Health and Human Services in the Governor’s Office in Texas. Rush has a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.

Jetta serves as Executive Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children or “MassKids.” Organized in 1959, it is the nation’s oldest private, statewide child advocacy organization. Since 1986, it has served as the Massachusetts Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America.

Jetta directs the Enough Abuse Campaign, a citizen education and mobilization effort to prevent child sexual abuse in schools, youth-serving organizations and communities. Launched through a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002, and supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women (2007 – 2014), the Campaign is operating in several Massachusetts communities and has been adopted in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Maine, and several California counties.

Jetta has organized two highly successful national conferences including: “Innovative Strategies to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Schools” (October 2017), and “The Prevention Summit on Child Sexual Abuse” (November 2013.) These brought together school and a youth-organization leaders and advocates to discuss latest knowledge and prevention strategies in the field.

She is co-developer of “Enough! Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in My School”, a one-hour, evidence-based e-learning course for school personnel, and “Pledge to Prevent ™” a social media campaign aimed at educating and engaging citizens to take actions to prevent child sexual abuse from ever occurring. She has developed several prevention training curricula and policy materials including more recently: "Sexual Abuse Safe-Child Standards" (2015), "State and Federal Legislative Efforts to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: A Status Report" (2015), "Straight Talk About Child Sexual Abuse: A Prevention Guide for Parents" (2014), and "The Enough Abuse Campaign: Building the Movement to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Massachusetts,” published in the Journal on Child Sexual Abuse (2012).

Jetta co-chairs the Policy Committee of the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation and serves on the 11-member National Independent Schools Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct which released its national report with recommendations earlier this year. She was Co-Chair of the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, a grassroots coalition that succeeded, in 2006 and 2014 respectively, in reforming the state's criminal and civil statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse.

Jetta has received several awards for her effective advocacy on behalf of children and her work to prevent child abuse. These include: The Boston Celtics’ "Heroes Among Us" Award; the "Public Friend of Children" Award from the Boston Parents Paper; the Angel Child Advocate Award from Voices for America’s Children; the "Woman of Achievement Award" from the Miss Massachusetts Organization; and the Allard Award from the MA Dental Society.

She received her Master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and her undergraduate degree from New York University.