St. Paul’s School admits 13 staffers engaged in ‘sexual misconduct’
Thirteen former faculty and staff members at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., engaged in sexual misconduct with students over four decades, according to a report released Monday that faulted administrators for ignoring and even concealing the widespread abuse.
In the sheer numbers of teachers implicated, the abuse at St. Paul’s, a prestigious boarding school, ranked as among the most pervasive that has been substantiated at a New England private school.
The report faulted administrators who it said were often more interested in preserving the school’s reputation than protecting students from assaults and, in some cases, rape by respected faculty members. The report was particularly critical of an investigation the school commissioned in 2000 that failed to address multiple claims of abuse that alumni had brought to school leaders.
School leaders on Monday apologized to the school community and credited survivors for pushing St. Paul’s to acknowledge the misconduct, which occurred between 1948 and 1988.
“We offer our most sincere apology to survivors for the wrongs that were done to them at St. Paul’s School,” Rector Michael G. Hirschfeld and Archibald Cox Jr., president of the board of trustees, wrote in a letter to the St. Paul’s community. “The failures uncovered in this report have hurt every member of our school community, none more so than the survivors of these abuses.”
St. Paul’s is the latest prep school to investigate claims of misconduct following a 2016 Boston Globe Spotlight story that reported on allegations of abuse by more than 200 victims at 67 private schools in New England.
The investigation, which was led by former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger, did not receive or review any allegations of misconduct by teachers after 1988. School leaders said, however, that more victims may come forward.
“If they do, the situations will be investigated,” said Cox, son of the famous Watergate prosecutor, also a St. Paul’s graduate. “This doesn’t stop now.”
A student who graduated in the early 1970s criticized the report, saying it named one of three teachers at St. Paul’s who made sexual overtures toward him but did not identify or describe two others.
“It’s not a complete accounting,” he said. “It’s nowhere close.’’
The man said he never contacted St. Paul’s or Harshbarger about the sexual misconduct he experienced but intends to do so now.
While the report focuses on decades-old allegations against faculty, St. Paul’s has more recently been grappling with fallout from a 2015 case involving a senior student accused of raping a 15-year-old classmate as part of a game of sexual conquest called Senior Salute. The senior, Owen Labrie, was acquitted of rape but found guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault and other crimes.
The report released Monday documented a range of assaults, harassments, and rape.
In three cases, the misconduct culminated in the teacher marrying the student almost immediately after the student’s graduation. One of the students, the report said, killed herself at age 19, on the same day in 1982 that the teacher she had married died of a heart attack at age 48.
In addition to the 13 teachers whose abuse was substantiated in the report, another 10 former faculty and staff were accused of sexual misconduct, the report said. But they were not named because, investigators said, they did not have enough evidence or the allegations were not serious enough.
Another 11 current and former faculty and staff were accused of sexual misconduct, but because the allegations were made anonymously, they could not be substantiated, the report said.
Lieutenant Sean Ford, a spokesman for the Concord Police Department, said Monday that the department was reviewing the report, along with its own records from that era, to determine if an investigation is warranted.
Last month, Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., named 12 former educators who allegedly sexually abused or assaulted students since the 1960s. In March, Phillips Exeter Academy disclosed credible allegations of sexual misconduct by four former employees.
And last year, St. George’s School in Middletown, R.I., reported that 51 alumni described being abused by faculty and staff in the 1970s and 1980s. Al Gibbs, an athletic trainer, allegedly abused 31 of the victims.
Eric MacLeish, a Cambridge lawyer, said he is representing three St. Paul’s alumni from the 1970s who are considering legal action for the abuse they allegedly suffered.
“This was life-altering in the most profound and negative way,” he said. “People knew about it or should have known about it at St. Paul’s, and they did nothing.”
The report confirmed that St. Paul’s often failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse or misconduct when they were reported to school leaders.
For example, when a teacher named Edward Lawrence Katzenbach III grabbed a student’s breast in 1974, she immediately reported the assault to a vice rector, John Buxton, who asked her: “What did you do to make him [Mr. Katzenbach] behave that way?” the report said. Buxton told investigators he has “no memory” of the conversation. Katzenbach died in 1997.
When another student engaged in what the report described as a sexual relationship with a teacher, the rector at the time, William A. Oates, arranged to meet the student. But instead of asking about what happened, Oates “only expressed concern about how it reflected on the reputation” of St. Paul’s, the report said. Oates died in 2015. The teacher, Robert Maurice Degouey, is also deceased.
The report also criticized St. Paul’s for the 2000 investigation that was conducted by Robert B. Gordon, who was working at the time for the law firm Ropes & Gray, which handled a range of legal issues for the school.
According to the school, former students had at the time identified 22 faculty members who had engaged in sexual misconduct, but only three were investigated.
St. Paul’s wanted primarily “to protect its reputation (and those of the individuals involved) and reduce the risk of claims being made against the school,” the report said.
Gordon, now a justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, was questioned about the investigation by Harshbarger’s team. He indicated that, if he were to conduct the review again, he would probably not limit the scope to only living faculty members, as he did in 2000.
Cox, who was not on the board at the time, expressed regret that the 2000 investigation was concerned with protecting the school’s image. “That’s clearly unfortunate, and it’s not something that would ever happen under the current administration and board,” he said.
Hirschfeld said none of the administrators who were cited in the most recent report for failing to respond appropriately to allegations of abuse are still working at the school.
In most cases, the report said, the victims never told school leaders about the incidents because the perpetrators were revered figures on campus.
That included Katzenbach, an English and history teacher from 1971 to 1995, who was accused of 10 acts of sexual misconduct, and Jose “Senor” Ordonez, a history teacher from 1952 to 1987, who committed seven acts of sexual misconduct, the report said. Ordonez died in 2008.
Hirschfeld said St. Paul’s has, for more than a decade, trained teachers on appropriate boundaries and educated students to alert adults if they see misconduct.
Although its scope quickly broadened, St. Paul’s investigation was initially designed to look into concerns that Howard White had been a chaplain and teacher at the school from 1967 to 1971 before he worked at St. George’s School, which fired him for sexual misconduct in 1974.
The investigation found that White also allegedly abused students at St. Paul’s. One student, who was 15 at the time, was repeatedly raped on a six-week summer trip with White, the report said.
Last week, White pleaded guilty to molesting a student at St. George’s School during trips in 1973 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.