Report finds seven former Hotchkiss faculty members sexually abused students
An elite Connecticut boarding school apologized Friday after an independent investigator found that seven former faculty members sexually abused students between 1969 and 1992.
The sexual misconduct at The Hotchkiss School included unwanted contact, unnecessary gynecological exams, and intercourse, and involved 16 students, according to the investigation conducted by the law firm Locke Lord.
Additionally, investigators found multiple instances in which former administrators were made aware of possible misconduct but failed to intervene, according to the report.
“To the survivors of abuse, we apologize from the bottom of our hearts,” said Jean Weinberg Rose, president of the school’s board of trustees, and Craig W. Bradley, Hotchkiss’ head of school, in Friday’s letter.
Specifically noted was the school’s inadequate response to reports about the behavior of Leif Thorne-Thomsen, who served as a classics teacher from 1964 to 1992. Over nearly two decades, Thorne-Thomsen — who went on to marry two of his former students — abused “vulnerable” girls who thought of themselves as outsiders, the report says.
“He used the trust these students placed in him as a teacher and mentor to engage in repeated acts of sexual misconduct,” investigators wrote.
The other former faculty members who sexually abused students were Christopher Carlisle, an English teacher from 1963 to 1982, George “Rick” DelPrete, who worked as an athletic director and history teacher from 1970 to 2004, Dr. Peter Gott, the school’s medical director from 1972 to 2005, Albert Sly, a choral director, organist, and music teacher at the school from 1950 to 1970 and again in 2008, Ronald Carlson, an English teacher from 1971 to 1981, and Damon White, an English teacher from 1983 to 2012, according to the letter.
Carlisle, Gott, and Sly are deceased.
The allegations include phony “gynecological” exams by Gott, a rape allegation against Sly, and Carlisle’s open obsession with a particular student. DelPrete is accused of showing a student pornographic playing cards and having her perform oral sex on him, and Carlson allegedly kissed and fondled a student. Damon is accused of frequently plying a student with alcohol and pressuring her to give him oral sex.
The report included other allegations that did not meet the investigators’ criteria for naming the offender.
Eric MacLeish, a Cambridge attorney who represents victims who were allegedly abused by three faculty members, called Thorne-Thomsen “a serial predator, one of the worst I have ever come across,” saying he “preyed on completely vulnerable girls.”
The school “got a lot wrong” over the decades, said MacLeish.
“There were warning signs all over the place for Leif Thorne-Thomsen and they allowed him to remain,” he said.
Thorne-Thomsen can’t be prosecuted because of Connecticut’s statute of limitations, said MacLeish.
“It is a total tragedy,” he said.
He also referred to Carlson as a “skilled predator.”
“There is a special place in hell for those who stood by, had the power to take action and did nothing,” MacLeish said.
Hotchkiss, according to Friday’s letter, has “made the appropriate reports to law enforcement and to any known subsequent employers.”
The school has also stripped the seven individuals of any public recognition at the Lakeville, Conn., school, and banned them from its campus.
Additionally, the school’s Board of Trustees has accepted the resignation of Arthur White, who served as the school’s headmaster from 1983 to 1989, from his post as a trustee emeritus. The school is also removing the names of any former heads of school “who failed to act on reports of abuse from any prizes, scholarships, endowments, and spaces on campus.”
The school is also reimbursing current and past therapy costs for the victims, according to the letter.
Locke Lord, which presented its findings to the school’s board on Friday, interviewed more than 150 people and reviewed about 200,000 pages of documents, according to the letter.
The school, founded in 1891, has 600 students in grades 9 through 12 and a “small number of postgraduates,” according to its website. For boarding students, tuition and fees for the upcoming school year cost more than $59,000; for day students, those costs topped $50,000, according to the school’s web site.
Hotchkiss is among a group of elite New England boarding schools that have confronted allegations of sexual misconduct in recent years. In January, Northfield Mount Hermon in Western Massachusetts fired a teacher after an 18 year-old student at another school said she had a sexual relationship with him. Earlier this year, a lawsuit denounced St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., as a “haven for sexual predators.”
Several elite private schools have investigated claims of misconduct following a 2016 Boston Globe Spotlight story that reported on allegations by about 200 victims at 67 New England private schools.