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St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire

St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire

Article from The New York Times.

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 report naming 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.”

Even the new report noted the failings of the previous one, which, it said, was intended by school officials “to protect its reputation (and those of the individuals involved) and reduce the risk of claims being made against the school.” The 2000 report was led by Robert B. Gordon, a lawyer who was already working with the school, and who is now a judge in Massachusetts. Mr. Gordon, who declined to comment on Monday, told the new investigators that he never considered himself independent counsel.

Critics said the gap between the two investigations was damning. In 2000, alumni presented the investigators with accounts of abuse by six teachers, but only those believed to be alive were studied. One of them, Jose A. G. “Señor” Ordonez, a former history teacher who was by then the school’s archivist, admitted to misconduct, according to the new report, but was quietly sent away from the school with a monthly stipend. Mr. Ordonez died in 2008.

“The school had a very deliberate pattern and practice of dealing with complaints of sexual abuse,” said Paul Mones, a lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse. “That practice was to cover up and deny the problem and protect the accused faculty member and the school’s reputation over the health and well-being of the young people they were supposedly dedicated to serve.”

The latest investigation began about a year ago after revelations that Howard Willard White Jr., a sacred studies teacher at St. Paul’s from 1967 to 1971, was accused of molesting children while he taught at St. George’s in the 1970s (he pleaded guilty this year). Officials at St. Paul’s asked a team of lawyers, led by the former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger, to investigate Mr. White’s conduct while he taught there, but they soon expanded the investigation beyond one teacher.

“Put simply but starkly, several former faculty and staff sexually abused children in their care in a variety of ways, from clear boundary violations to repeated sexual relationships to rape,” the 73-page report said.

The report said one student was “routinely” raped by Mr. White on a six-week summer trip. Mr. White could not be reached for comment. Numerous students described lengthy sexual relationships with teachers. One student married a school counselor, Terrence M. Walsh, shortly after her graduation, and then killed herself at 19 after he died of a heart attack, the report said.

It was uncertain whether any of the former St. Paul’s employees who are alive may face criminal charges. Experts said the statute of limitations in the state is generally 22 years after a victim who was a minor turns 18, but that the limitations clock runs only while an alleged perpetrator is in the state.

At St. Paul’s, the investigation mentioned no reports of abuse by employees after 1988 because the investigators said they received none. In 2015, St. Paul’s drew attention when a former student, Owen Labrie, was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and child endangerment for a sexual encounter he had with a 15-year-old girl during his senior year.

Since 2000, Mr. Hirschfeld said, the school has removed six employees for a “boundary violation,” like sharing too much personal information or using technology inappropriately, but the actions in those cases fell short of sexual misconduct, school officials said.

“We offer our most sincere apology to survivors for the wrongs that were done to them at St. Paul’s School and also for the failure to pursue investigations of allegations when they were initially made,” Mr. Hirschfeld and Archibald Cox Jr., the president of the board of trustees, wrote in a letter to the school community on Monday.

“Our history with regard to sexual abuse and sexual misconduct,” they added, “is a painful one.”

If you or someone you care about was sexually abused and you would like advice from an attorney about the rights and options for victims of child sexual abuse, please contact Crew Janci LLP today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-888-407-0224 or by using our private online form.  We will treat you with discretion and respect.

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Andria Seo

Andria Seo is an Associate Attorney at Crew Janci LLP. Andria is a graduate of the New York University School of Law. During law school, she worked with the National Center for Youth Law, the Legal Aid Society, and the NYCLU. Prior to joining the team at Crew Janci LLP, Andria advocated for vulnerable children and their families as a staff attorney at Partnership for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit based in New York City. Andria also previously worked assisting in the representation of victims of a terrorist attack in civil suits. Andria moved to Portland in 2016 and joined Crew Janci LLP in 2017. She is admitted to practice in Oregon and New York