Lisa Poole for The Boston Globe
A celebrated faculty member at Phillips Exeter Academy and a leader of the boarding school movement was forced to resign and has been permanently barred from campus after he admitted to two cases of sexual misconduct with students in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a letter released Wednesday by the prestigious New Hampshire school.
Rick Schubart — who held positions as chair of the school’s history department, director of admissions, dorm adviser, and coach during his nearly 40-year career — already had been “required to retire and removed from campus housing” after the school learned of the first case in 2011, according to the letter signed by principal Lisa MacFarlane and Eunice Panetta, president of the trustees.
Phillips Exeter said nothing publicly at the time, and Schubart remained an emeritus faculty member — until a second allegation surfaced in 2015.
Schubart was finally “stripped of his emeritus status and permanently barred from campus and all Exeter events” last year, according to the letter. In both cases, Schubart “admitted that sexual misconduct occurred,” the letter said.
But the school did not publicly disclose Schubart’s misconduct until the day after the Globe inquired about the two cases.
Schubart, reached Tuesday, referred all questions to his attorney, saying, “I can’t comment in any way.” His lawyer did not return two messages.
The victim who disclosed Schubart’s misconduct in 2011 said she had sought advice from him one evening during her senior year in 1977 and, at the end of the night, he kissed her. It escalated into a sexual relationship that lasted several months. The woman said she was surprised to find out that a second woman accused Schubart of victimizing her.
“After learning of a second allegation, I knew that the situation was worse than I had realized. At least one other young woman might have been devastated as I was, and I am no longer willing to remain silent,” said the victim, who asked the Globe for anonymity. “Any other possible victims of Schubart . . . must know they are not alone.”
MacFarlane, who took over as principal at the start of this school year, apologized in a statement Wednesday evening and said the school’s response to the first incident was “insufficient.”
“Our primary focus was to protect the privacy of the victim. Looking back, our focus should have better balanced transparency and accountability with the interest of the broader community. Had we done so, we would have arrived at a better outcome for both the victim and the entire Exeter community,” MacFarlane said. “We take full responsibility for that, and we sincerely apologize.”
The school — whose famous alumni range from US President Franklin Pierce to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — said it reported the allegations in 2011 and 2015 to authorities, including the Exeter Police Department and the Division of Children, Youth, and Families.
Schubart, a scholar of early American and Civil War history, in the 1990s served as president of The Association of Boarding Schools, which represents boarding schools around the world. He has also served as chairman of the board of the Federation of American and International Schools, and was a trustee at the Bronx Preparatory Charter School as recently as September 2014, according to the school.
In November 2012, The Association of Boarding Schools gave Schubart a leadership award, declaring in a press release, “Rick’s accolades are many, and his contributions to boarding schools run deep.”
Phillips Exeter is one of a number of independent schools where allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced publicly in recent months, forcing schools to confront misconduct that sometimes occurred decades earlier. In January, the Globe reported that more than 40 people have contacted attorneys representing victims from St. George’s with accusations of molestation and rape by staff and students at the Episcopal prep school in Middletown, R.I. The attorneys represent 30 of them and say that the alleged misconduct stretches from the 1960s to more recent years under the watch of current headmaster Eric Peterson.
Exeter principal MacFarlane, in a February message to the school community, referred to the surge of allegations, saying, “Former students from peer institutions have come forward to allege sexual abuse by teachers or by fellow students while they were in school. Our hearts go out to anyone who has been mistreated and is suffering from that experience.”
The letter suggested that students who have experienced or are aware of such violations should contact the assistant principal or dean of students.
This is not the first sexual misconduct controversy at Phillips Exeter. In 1992, a drama teacher, Larry Lane Bateman, was arrested on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography. During the prosecution, it was disclosed that Bateman had secretly videotaped Exeter students in their bathrooms and bedrooms and made at least one sexually explicit tape in his campus bedroom with a student.
Exeter dismissed him immediately, and Bateman was sentenced to five years in prison.
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