Report Details Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct By St. Paul's School Faculty

May 22, 2017

A revered debate coach and one-time head of the Advanced Studies Program who groped and exposed himself to multiple female students.

A history teacher and cross-country coach who sexually assaulted, massaged and propositioned multiple male students. 

A chaplain who reportedly invited students to his room for “late night prayer sessions” and was dismissed from the school after admitting to touching students’ genitals.

These were among the dozens of incidents detailed in a 73-page report released by St. Paul’s School on Monday, the results of an investigation the school commissioned one year ago to look into past sexual abuse and misconduct by faculty and staff. (You can read the full report here.)

In the report, investigators hired by the school said they uncovered "a range of credible and very disturbing historical information” about decades-old abuses by teachers, coaches, clergy, counselors and other adults in positions of power at the school.

“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,” investigators from the Boston-based law firm Casner & Edwards wrote in their report.

The incidents documented in the report span four decades, with the most recent occurring in 1988. The school says it has not received nor investigated any reports of faculty-student sexual misconduct that took place since then — but officials say they wouldn’t be surprised if this report prompts more people to come forward.

“We would view that as a good thing,” Rector Michael Hirschfeld said Monday. “If someone got the courage, was inspired by this report and what they read, as disheartening as it is, that would be a good thing.”

In the report, investigators identify by name thirteen faculty and staff responsible for “substantiated” incidents of assault and misconduct, in which the investigators say they were able to corroborate reports with multiple witnesses or other documentation.

Beyond those incidents, the report also details additional claims against nearly two dozen anonymous faculty and staff, eleven of which are relayed in detail but labeled as “unsubstantiated,” because investigators say they lacked “sufficient” evidence to verify the claims.

A number of former students interviewed for the report told investigators they were deeply traumatized by the experiences, requiring therapy and counseling later in life.

St. Paul’s officials said they first received a copy of the completed investigation on Sunday. The school publicized the report Monday morning, along with a letter of apology from Rector Michael Hirschfeld and Board President Archibald Cox. 

The investigation began when St. Paul’s hired a law firm to investigate the conduct of one former teacher named in a Boston Globe investigation about sexual abuse at New England prep schools, and later expanded to include other faculty and staff.

But this wasn’t the first investigation of its kind at St. Paul’s.

Several former students who shared their experiences with investigators this time around said they previously reported the incidents during an earlier investigation conducted by another law firm more than a decade ago — but were never contacted again for more follow-up by that other firm.

In 2000, a group of alumni from the Class of 1975 wrote to St. Paul’s officials shortly after a class reunion to speak out about incidents that happened during their time at the school.

That prompted the school to ask another law firm to look into those reports. While that investigation spurred internal policy changes, St. Paul’s officials now say it fell short on a number of levels, it wasn’t as thorough as it should have been and the final report wasn’t made public.

“It was said it was going to be a thorough and independent investigation,” said Cox, who joined the board in 2012. “It turned out to be neither thorough nor independent, nor was it disseminated beyond a very narrow group of people.”

St. Paul’s says it forwarded a copy of the most recent report to Concord Police and the New Hampshire Attorney General. Officials say they welcome and will investigate any additional reports from here.

This report comes as the school is still reeling from the fallout from another high-profile case of sexual assault involving a senior ritual where older students allegedly preyed on younger ones. With that in mind, the school says they’re using this report as a call to step up more prevention and education among both faculty and students to help them recognize and report inappropriate behavior.

Hirschfeld said St. Paul’s maintains a “zero tolerance” policy toward faculty and staff who engage in misconduct.

“Any adult that’s using a child to meet his or her own needs here doesn’t have a place here,” he said.