Prep school finds five cases of sexual misconduct

The Phillips Academy campus in Andover.
The Phillips Academy campus in Andover.Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe/File

An investigation into sexual misconduct at Phillips Academy in Andover found that five former teachers allegedly harmed students during the 1970s and 1980s, the boarding school announced Tuesday.

Head of School John Palfrey disclosed the findings of “former faculty members engaged in sexual misconduct involving students,” in a letter to the school community that was published on the Phillips website.

Three former faculty were identified by name: H. Schuyler Royce, who died in 1991; Alexander Theroux, a former writer-in-residence on campus; and Stephen Wicks.

Neither Theroux nor Wicks could be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Two other former teachers were not named because the cases did not meet criteria the school set for identification.


Among the criteria: the “severity of the misconduct, its effect on the former student(s), and/or whether the school was made aware of multiple concerns of misconduct,” Palfrey wrote.

He said the school hired the Sanghavi Law Office to investigate allegations of misconduct and also asked alumni who had information about wrongdoing to come forward.

Theroux, a well-known novelist, allegedly “engaged in sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1970s,” and investigators received multiple concerns about his behavior, but he has denied the allegations, Palfrey wrote. The novelist has been banned from campus and school events.

The probe found Wicks engaged in sexual misconduct with a student in the 1980s, and he has been barred from campus and school events and stripped of his emeritus status, according to Palfrey’s letter.

Investigators determined that Royce “engaged in multiple incidents of sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1980s,” Palfrey wrote, and the school became aware of additional concerns about his behavior during the review.

Further information about the alleged misconduct was not available Tuesday night.

Palfrey said the school has notified state authorities about its findings.


A spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said she could not confirm Tuesday night whether the office had been notified.

In his letter, Palfrey lauded the “tremendous strength and courage for alumni who suffered past mistreatment to share their experiences with us years later.”

The letter came three months after a Globe Spotlight report detailed abuse at New England private schools over decades.

Palfrey said the school “will maintain records for all those concerns that have been raised, including those for which Sanghavi Law Office did not have sufficient information to make a judgment at this time, or where their findings did not meet the threshold of public disclosure described above. We are prepared to revisit any and all concerns in the future.”

In a related development, the Association of Boarding Schools and the National Association of Independent Schools on Tuesday announced the formation of a task force on educator sexual misconduct.

The association of boarding schools’ executive director, Peter Upham, said in a statement it will “develop a set of recommendations — for schools and for school associations — to prevent sexual misconduct and to respond justly, compassionately, and effectively to reports of sexual misconduct.”

Donna Orem, president of the Association of Independent Schools, called the group “an expression of our shared commitment to eradicate educator sexual misconduct in independent schools and to contribute to broader national and international solutions,” she said.

Jenn Abelson and Jonathan Saltzman of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.