Administrators at St. Paul’s School are once again turning to an outside investigator after students reported “concerning” behavior at the elite private boarding school, just weeks after the school admitted that 13 staffers engaged in sexual misconduct with students over four decades.
In a statement provided Friday by the school’s public relations department, Rector Michael G. Hirschfeld said an outside investigator has been hired to “get to the bottom of what took place. The investigation is ongoing and we do not yet have a final report.’’
According to Hirschfeld, the investigation at the Concord, N.H., school started earlier in June when “students came forward and alerted SPS faculty to behaviors that were concerning to them.” He did not specify what the “behaviors” were.
But the Concord Monitor reported Thursday that about eight boys in the same dormitory competed in a “game of sexual conquest” where the winners would get their names on a crown. The newspaper’s account broadly mirrors the “senior salute” sexual contest among St. Paul students that played a role in the sexual assault case against former student Owen Labrie.
Labrie was acquitted in 2015 of raping Chessy Prout — who was 15 years old at the time — but convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and child endangerment and was sentenced to a year in prison. A conviction on a felony computer charge required him to register as a sex offender for life.
Prout later spoke out publicly and is writing a book with Boston Globe reporter Jenn Abelson, a member of the newspaper’s Spotlight team, about her experiences.
In the wake of the Monitor report, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence questioned why school administrators have not done more to try to change the culture at the school.
“This school has more than a 60 year history of documented sexual assault on its campus, and it would be short sighted to think that these crimes haven’t had a deep effect on student culture today,” coalition spokeswoman Amanda Grady Sexton said in a statement. “If the school was aware of this misconduct, they should have engaged in an immediate public dialogue with students, faculty, and staff.”
She added, “It’s deeply concerning that the administration isn’t taking action to truly address this toxic environment.”
Last month, St. Paul’s released the results of an outside examination into the sexual misconduct by staffers with students. The report found that 13 former faculty and staff members at the school engaged in sexual misconduct with students over four decades, the Globe reported.
The report faulted administrators for being more interested in preserving the school’s reputation than protecting students from assaults and, in some cases, rape by respected faculty members.
In his statement, Hirschfeld did not specifically refer to the Monitor report, but he denied that the administration is attempting to hide the incident.
“Contrary to published reports, at no time did the School attempt to cover up this incident,’’ Hirschfeld said in the statement.
Hirschfeld promised that students found to have violated the school’s rules will face sanctions.
“If it is proven there was any improper behavior or that our school’s code of conduct was violated, there will be swift and immediate consequences for those students who were involved,’’ he said. “The safety and well-being of all students remains our highest priority.”
A number of prep schools have investigated 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.John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.