St. Paul’s School Acknowledges Decades of Sexual Misconduct
St. Paul’s School, the elite boarding school in New Hampshire, on Monday named 13 former faculty and staff members against whom investigators substantiated claims of sexual misconduct with students there decades ago.
“Put simply but starkly, several former faculty and staff sexually abused children in their care in a variety of ways, from clear boundary violations to repeated sexual relationships to rape,” read a 73-page report written by outside lawyers after a yearlong investigation.
The report said another 10 former faculty or staff members had allegedly committed some kind of sexual misconduct, but did not name them. Investigators said they were unable to substantiate claims against another 11 faculty and staff members.
With the report, St. Paul’s — which educated people like John Kerry and Cornelius Vanderbilt III — becomes the latest exclusive private school to reckon with allegations of sexual abuse. Last month, Choate Rosemary Hall, in Connecticut, released a report naming 12 former faculty members said to have abused students. In March, Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, named several faculty members accused of abuse. And reporting by The Boston Globe revealed sweeping allegations of sexual abuse at St. George’s School in Rhode Island.
The St. Paul’s investigation began after revelations that Howard Willard White Jr., a sacred studies teacher there from 1967 to 1971, had pleaded guilty to molesting children while he taught at St. George’s in the 1970s. Officials at St. Paul’s asked a team of lawyers, led by the former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger, to investigate Mr. White’s conduct while he taught there, but they soon expanded the scope of their investigation.
In the report, former students described fondling and other sexual touching by members of the faculty or staff. One student reported being raped repeatedly, at the age of 15, by Mr. White. Numerous students described extended sexual relationships with their teachers. In three cases, investigators said, students ended up marrying their teachers soon after they graduated.
All of the alleged abuse, investigators said, happened from 1948 to 1988.
The named faculty members were mostly teachers — of music, languages, sacred studies and more — although one was an admissions official.
The report identified six of the named faculty members as dead.
Efforts early Monday to reach some of the former teachers and staff members or their representatives were unsuccessful.
The investigators said they did not receive reports about alleged abuse after 1988. “Whatever the reasons for the absence of reports may be, it is clear to us that, beginning in 1995, SPS leadership began to undertake efforts to establish written policies on boundaries and sexual abuse and harassment, and to educate faculty on mandatory child abuse reporting laws,” they wrote.
“The school failed to protect students from sexual abuse and sexual misconduct done to them by adults entrusted with their care,” Michael G. Hirschfeld, the school’s rector, and Archibald Cox Jr., the president of the board of trustees, wrote in a letter announcing the investigators’ findings.
“We offer our most sincere apology to survivors for the wrongs that were done to them at St. Paul’s School and also for the failure to pursue investigations of allegations when they were initially made,” the officials wrote.
“Our history with regard to sexual abuse and sexual misconduct,” they added, “is a painful one.”
In 2015, the school drew national attention when a former student, Owen Labrie, was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and child endangerment for a sexual encounter he had during his senior year with a 15-year-old girl there. During Mr. Labrie’s trial, witnesses described an aggressive sexual culture in which older students sought romantic encounters with younger ones in their final days on campus — a practice they called the “senior salute.”
The report on Monday also found fault with an investigation into sexual misconduct by the faculty that was conducted in 2000. The new report said that investigation, led by Robert B. Gordon, who is now a Superior Court judge in Massachusetts, was too limited in scope. The goal of that inquiry, according to the report, was chiefly “to protect its reputation (and those of the individuals involved) and reduce the risk of claims being made against the school.”
The findings released on Monday immediately began to filter out to alumni.
“The stories are terrifying,” said Shamus Khan, an alumnus who is an associate professor of sociology at Columbia University and has written about the culture of St. Paul’s.
“But the school is doing the right thing — something brave and incredibly difficult — to honestly shine light on this,” Mr. Khan said.
Eric MacLeish, a lawyer who has represented numerous people who experienced abuse at several other prep schools, including St. George’s and Choate, said the report was part of a new movement by prestigious prep schools to release their entire investigations, as opposed to a brief summary.
“Survivors need to know the truth — not excuses why the truth can’t be told,” Mr. MacLeish said.