CONCORD, N.H. — Students call it an end-of-the-year tradition at the elite St. Paul’s School: Graduating seniors seek to hook up with younger classmates before departing the bucolic boarding school for college.
But two days before this year’s graduation, authorities say, the spring dating rite known as the Senior Salute took a darker turn. An 18-year-old senior, Owen Labrie, allegedly led a 15-year-old freshman into a secluded area and sexually assaulted her as she pleaded “no.”
Investigators say Labrie may have been in a competition with friends to see how many conquests each could chalk up.
News of the alleged assault — and the tradition that underlies it — has shocked and horrified students and alumni at St. Paul’s, set amid 2,000 acres of woodland and meadow. For them, the Episcopal high school founded in 1856 offers not just an education, but a home and family.
“St. Paul’s is the best thing that ever happened to me; it changed my life,” said Jessie Dalman, 18, who graduated with Labrie but declined to discuss the allegations against him. “It’s just a difficult time for the whole community.”
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