St. Paul’s School Acknowledges Decades of Sexual Misconduct

St. Paul’s School Acknowledges Decades of Sexual Misconduct

By Jess Bidgood, May 22, 2017, NY Times

On Monday, St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school in New Hampshire, named 13 former faculty and staff members who investigators said were involved in substantiated reports of sexual misconduct from 1948 to 1988. Ten more employees, accused of lesser offenses, were not named.

There was an English teacher, the investigators said, who groped a student and had a sexual relationship with another. A female student said a music teacher sexually touched her in his car. And there was a sacred studies teacher, a minister, whom one student accused of rape.

On Monday, St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school in New Hampshire, named 13 former faculty and staff members who investigators said were involved in substantiated reports of sexual misconduct from 1948 to 1988. Ten more employees, accused of lesser offenses, were not named.

The report laid out publicly, in painful detail, what an earlier investigation by the school on the same subject had not. In 2000, spurred by alumni who had gathered for their 25th reunion and decided to tell the school of alleged sexual abuse, the head of the school at the time vowed an investigation. “The chips,” he said then, “will have to fall where they may.”

But that effort ended quietly, having delved into claims against only three teachers, with few answers for alumni and no full report issued to the public. Among those named in the 2017 report are some of the teachers the alumni had raised concerns about in 2000.

“Learning what we’ve learned, knowing that people have been suffering as long as they’ve been suffering,” said Michael G. Hirschfeld, who became the head of the school in 2010. He added, “It should have happened in the right way in 2000.”

With the 2017 report, St. Paul’s — which educated people like John Kerry and Cornelius Vanderbilt III — becomes the latest exclusive private school to reckon with allegations of sexual abuse. Efforts to reach some of the former teachers and staff members named in the report were unsuccessful. At least six of the former St. Paul’s employees are dead, the report said.

Last month, Choate Rosemary Hall, in Connecticut, released a reportnaming 12 former faculty members said to have abused students. In March, Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, named several faculty members accused of abuse. And reporting by The Boston Globe revealed sweeping allegations of sexual abuse at St. George’s School in Rhode Island.

As abuse allegations have piled up, schools have opted to release their investigations to the public, said Eric MacLeish, a lawyer who has represented people who faced abuse at prep schools.

“Survivors need to know the truth — not excuses why the truth can’t be told,” Mr. MacLeish said.

In some ways, the two St. Paul’s reports — from 2000 and 2017 — represent a shift in how sexual abuse is handled by institutions after two decades of revelations of abuse in the Catholic Church and private schools. In an interview, current officials with St. Paul’s School were quick to distance themselves from the old report.

“The motive to protect the institution’s reputation was not in alignment” with those of today, Mr. Hirschfeld said. Now, he said, “protecting the school’s reputation means being transparent about protecting the safety of children.”

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