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School says ex-headmaster, student had inappropriate relationship

A former headmaster of a North Andover college preparatory school reportedly had an inappropriate relationship with a student during his tenure and also received threats from ­escorts he hired, the school acknowledged Thursday.

In an e-mail to alumni and parents, officials at the Brooks School said that Lawrence W. Becker, the headmaster from 1986 to 2008, had engaged in a questionable relationship with a student during an ­unspecified time while he ran the school.

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“In our judgment, his conduct in this relationship was objectionable, manipulative, and an abuse of his ­position,” the current head of school John R. Packard and William N. Booth, president of the school’s board of trustees, wrote in the ­e-mail.

Karen Schwartzman, a public ­relations consultant retained by the school, would not discuss the relationship and said Packard and Booth were not available to comment. She would not disclose the gender of the student or the student’s age at the time, or say precisely when the relationship took place.

Becker, 71, could not be reached for comment.

“In our judgment, his conduct in this relationship was objectionable . . . and an abuse of his position.”

John R. Packard and William N. Booth, school officials 
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His lawyer, Joseph B. Green of Boston, said in an e-mail that he did not know what happened between Becker and the student or how the matter was handled.

Schwartzman said the case was recently resolved to the satisfaction of the student, who graduated from Brooks, but she would not provide details.

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She said records indicate that the president of the board of trustees at the time of the incident, media ­mogul and former Republican US presidential candidate Steve Forbes, “took steps to address” the issue when he learned of it. She would not elaborate.

Forbes, a Brooks alumnus who served as the school’s board president from 1987 to 1997, did not ­respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Thursday. A Forbes Media spokeswoman could not be reached.

Founded in 1926, the Brooks School has a $59.2 million endowment and charges a boarding tuition of $49,365 and a day tuition of $37,180, according to its website. The high school educates students from across the United States and dozens of foreign countries.

In their message to parents and alumni, Packard and Booth said the school received “disturbing e-mails” about Becker last summer from an anonymous writer. Becker admitted in September that he had ­received threats from a person, whom the school later learned was an escort he had hired in fall 2011. Becker had initially denied any knowledge of the ­e-mails, the letter stated.

The officials said Becker’s “lack of candor” about the ­escort prompted them to look into his tenure, and they ­reviewed the incident with the student, as well as a separate case of reported “inappropriate sexual behavior” in 2004 when he was headmaster.

Schwartzman said that in the 2004 case, “again it ­appeared that Larry Becker was on the receiving end of some very disturbing phone calls” from an escort he apparently hired during a work-related trip to New York City.

Schwartzman referred questions about the content of the threatening messages to Green.

In an e-mail, Green said only that “my understanding is that the e-mails were bizarre.” Asked about the reported threats to Becker in 2004, he said, “I can tell you that nothing came of it.”

Becker joined Carney, ­Sandoe & Associates,a Boston firm specializing in faculty and administrative placement at ­independent schools, as a consultant after retiring from Brooks.

In a statement Thursday, the company said that it “ended our relationship” with Becker after the firm received anonymous e-mails about him in September. The company knew nothing about the incidents at Brooks until the school notified them Thursday, the statement said.

In their letter, Packard and Booth asked alumni to contact the school if they have relevant information about Becker’s conduct during his tenure.

“We act now in the belief that this inquiry is compelled by our highest priority, which is the well-being of the students who have been entrusted to our care,” the letter stated.

In a recent alumni bulletin for the Amherst College class of 1963, Becker wrote that he and his wife now divide their time between Cape Cod and Bonita Springs, Fla.

“In Florida . . . we have to be careful before talking politics in our wonderful little condo community,” he wrote. “Most of our friends play golf — we don’t! — and are Republicans — we ­aren’t! But they love us anyway, and we all have a great time ­together.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.

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