For the rest of America, the testimonies Thursday of Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh were a riveting and emotional display of democracy that could affect the country for years to come.
For the communities of Holton-Arms and Georgetown Preparatory schools, the elite Washington-area single-sex academies that Ford and Kavanaugh attended more than three decades ago, the hearing was also intensely personal and the source of anguish and pride.
One reaction of the men and women associated with both schools as they followed the day-long televised testimonies: It was hard to watch.
“I was very surprised by how emotional I felt, and I was also struck by feeling very hopeless,” said Danielle Levine, a 2001 graduate of Holton-Arms who works with a Jewish social service agency in New Orleans.
A mother of three boys, Levine said she was distressed about the message being sent to young men by the day’s proceedings, as Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were high school students, and Kavanaugh sharply rebutted those claims.
“There was more concern from the Republicans about his reputation and ability to be successful and that seemed more important than whether he sexually assaulted someone or not,” she said.
Michael and Kelly Malesardi have a son who is a junior at Georgetown Prep and say he and his friends are saddened by how their school has been tarnished by the events of the past week and the descriptions by former students of heavy partying and an alcohol-drenched culture at the school in the 1980s when Kavanaugh was a student.
“The reputation just isn’t deserved. It’s not like that at all,” Michael Malesardi said. “The term ‘elitist’ is being thrown around. That’s not what the school and its Jesuit tradition is about. It really is a place of service for others.”
Kelly Malesardi said she and her husband are proud to have their son in school there. Like many parents and graduates of the school, she spent most of Thursday listening to the hearing and was dismayed.
“It’s just devastating for both of them, and I honestly don’t know how I feel,” she said. “It’s extremely political on both sides, and the whole thing is just so unsettling.”
William Fishburne, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s who has previously voiced opposition to his nomination to the Supreme Court, said he and his wife were in tears as they watched the testimony of Ford.
“I found her extremely credible. I do believe her,” he said.
Several other Georgetown Prep classmates who are friends of Kavanaugh and support his nomination did not respond to messages seeking comment.
For the two Bethesda schools, private institutions with wealthy and powerful alumni, the events of the past week have landed them uncomfortably in the national spotlight.
Holton-Arms administrators did not respond to a request for comment about the testimonies by Kavanaugh or Ford. But the school’s head, Susanna Jones, addressed the monumental day in a lengthy email to parents sent Thursday morning before the hearing. Her letter focused on addressing the issues of sexual assault, endangerment and alcohol abuse with students.
“This moment in history gives us, as parents and educators, an opportunity to put aside partisanship and focus on the well-
being of our young people,” Jones wrote. “How can we help our young people avoid becoming victims or perpetrators of sexual assault, or if they do, feel empowered to seek support?”
Georgetown Prep referred requests for comment to a statement released Wednesday that criticized media coverage of the school in the wake of the Kavanaugh controversy, saying the coverage unfairly portrayed the school and its response to alcohol and drug use by students.
“The image that has been presented on social media and in various news outlets depicts recklessness, illegal conduct, and lack of respect for persons. Worse, many blame these faults on institutional indifference,” the statement read. “But the temptations, and the failings, presented in these stories are not unique to Georgetown Prep. The problems and abuses of alcohol and drugs, sexual assault and misconduct, emotional and physical violence toward others are real; educators at every institution of primary, secondary, or higher learning in our nation face these problems every day.”
For women with daughters at Holton-Arms now, Ford’s assault allegations, dating back 35 years, surfaced memories and anger.
“I found it incredibly difficult to watch,” said a woman who has two daughters at the school and asked not to be identified because the school had requested that parents not talk to the media. “I really hated to think about my daughters one day being in a situation like that.”
The woman said her reaction to Ford’s testimony was “compassion” while she felt that Kavanaugh seemed “angry” and entitled.
“I don’t know that I don’t believe him, but I do believe her,” she said.
Alexis Goldstein, a 1999 graduate of Holton-Arms, was one of several dozen graduates who made their way Thursday to the Senate to be present while the hearings were going on and show support for Ford.
“We are in awe of her strength, bravery and resilience . . . and so deeply moved by her courageousness,” Goldstein said. More than 1,100 alumnae signed a letter of support for Ford and called for a full investigation before the nomination process continues.