After an internal investigation, Phillips Exeter Academy on Thursday disclosed that credible allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against a former school psychologist and three former teachers who worked at the prep school for many years.
The disclosures, made in a letter released by Phillips Exeter officials, follow severe criticism by alumni about the school’s handling of prior abuse cases. Hundreds of alumni threatened last year to withhold donations until the school cracked down on sexual abuse of students.
“It’s particularly shocking that some of our most beloved teachers are revealed to have a shadow side,” said Carl Lindemann, a 1979 graduate who was a member of the faculty at the Exeter, N.H., school from 1990 to 1993. “Even though these things happened many years ago, it’s still important to have truth and reconciliation for the school to regain its moral standing.”
The school brought in the law firm Holland & Knight to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by former faculty and staff at Phillips Exeter. The school trustees hired the law firm Choate Hall & Stewart to review the school’s handling of Rick Schubart, the former chair of the school’s history department who was quietly pressed into retirement in 2011 after the school learned of an incident of sexual misconduct. At the time, Phillips Exeter did not disclose the misconduct and Schubart was allowed to keep his emeritus status — until a second allegation surfaced in 2015, and he was banned from campus.
“Mr. Schubart’s misconduct — and PEA’s response to it — is a difficult chapter in the history of our school,” acknowledged principal Lisa MacFarlane and Nicie Panetta, president of the school’s board of trustees, in their letter Thursday, addressed to the “academy community.”
The four additional former staff members accused of sexual misconduct are:
• Donald Foster, an anthropology teacher from 1973 to 2011. The school received allegations that Foster engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with two students, once in the early 1980s and then several years later. Foster declined to be interviewed by the school’s outside investigators, according to Phillips Exeter. He was stripped of his faculty emeritus status and barred from campus, effective Thursday.
Foster could not be reached by the Globe.
• Henry Ploegstra, who taught English from 1962 to 1980, and is accused of inappropriate behavior toward three students during his career at Phillips Exeter. He denied the allegations to investigators and was barred from campus.
Reach by telephone by the Globe, Ploegstra, 82, said, “I have no comment on it,” and then called the allegations “bull[expletive].”
• George Mangan, who taught English from 1976 to 2009. The school received allegations that Mangan engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior toward two students at an off-campus location in the 1980s. The school did not disclose the location. Mangan died in 2009.
• Eldeff Schwaab, a Phillips Exeter psychologist from 1965 to 1976. The school received an allegation about Schwaab that dates to the early 1970s. Schwaab died in 2003.
The school Thursday also revealed a new allegation involving disgraced former drama teacher Lance Bateman, who was fired in 1992 after his arrest on child pornography charges. The school has received an allegation that Bateman, who died in 2013, sexually abused a student in the 1980s, Phillips Exeter said.
“We are mindful that some of those we have identified are deceased and cannot respond, one living former employee has denied the allegations, and another declined to speak to the H&K investigators,” Panetta and MacFarlane said in their letter. They said Phillips Exeter is making the names public “so that other possible survivors can realize they are not alone and to encourage them to come forward if doing so would promote their healing and the well-being of the community.”
Michael Whitfield Jones, a 1975 graduate, said Thursday that he was encouraged by the school’s disclosures but wants the investigation to push on.
“It’s good that the cone of silence seems to be breaking,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “I do hope they go deep into the administration” to expose any employee who might have hidden sex abuse allegations in the past.
In a statement, Panetta said the trustees hope the update “will encourage any other survivors and witnesses to come forward. The academy will be a stronger and more compassionate institution as a result, and future students for generations to come will be the beneficiaries of hard-won lessons.”