After a private meeting with a group of victims, a committee of the board of trustees at the embattled St. George’s School has agreed to get training on the “lifelong impacts” of childhood sexual abuse and will enter into reparation talks with some alumni who were allegedly assaulted as students at the elite prep school in Middletown, R.I.
According to a statement posted Monday night by the victims’ group SGS for Healing, trustees also will consider concerns about headmaster Eric Peterson, who has been criticized by some alumni for his handling of abuse complaints. An independent investigation of the school is due from attorney Martin Murphy in June, and the trustees agreed to take action on “issues raised regarding Peterson” within 30 days of the report’s release.
The agreements came at a meeting held Saturday in Boston between five members of SGS for Healing and five members of the school’s board of trustees. It was the first time the two groups have met since St. George’s became embroiled in a sex abuse scandal in December, with some allegations dating to the 1960s.
The trustees, according to the statement, also agreed to inform victims about actions regarding Zane Dormitory, named for a former headmaster, Tony Zane, who has also been criticized for his handling of allegations of sexual abuse by staffers. Victims have asked that the dorm be renamed.
An initial investigation by St. George’s last year found that 26 students were abused by six staffers. But more than 40 alleged victims have now consulted with attorneys Eric MacLeish and Carmen Durso, who are representing some of them. None have filed lawsuits.
The group of 10 victims and trustees in a statement called the meeting “a good first step forward in opening lines of communication and building mutual understanding.” More meetings will follow, they said.
“Together, we were able to identify some concrete actions that would be meaningful for survivors and support the School’s growing response,” SGS for Healing organizer Anne Scott said, who says she was raped by athletic trainer Al Gibbs as a student at the school in the late 1970s.
Board chairwoman Leslie Heaney said, “We are committed to continuing the conversation about what we can do to both support our survivor community and to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep our students healthy and safe.”
Neither side could be reached for further comment, nor could Peterson. School spokesman Joe Baerlein said, “These are private conversations between the parties and we will not comment beyond what is in the joint statement.”