St. Paul's School Grad Accuses Former Chaplain of Sexual Abuse

Aug 11, 2016

Credit AP

A former St. Paul’s School student has come forward with an allegation of sexual abuse by a former chaplain after the New Hampshire prep school began an investigation of the man upon learning of a similar allegation at a Rhode Island prep school where he also once worked, a St. Paul’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.

St. Paul’s contacted Concord police, alumni and students about the allegation involving the Rev. Howard “Howdy” White when he was a chaplain and teacher from 1967-1971, spokeswoman Tenley Rooney said in confirming reports that the school was investigating White.

Local police also said they are investigating the former chaplain, who has been accused of abusing children in other states where he’s worked but who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

White, whose last known address was in Pennsylvania, could not be reached for comment. No one answered his home phone Wednesday afternoon.

St. Paul’s Rector Michael G. Hirschfeld said in a letter to students and alumni Aug. 5 that the school started an investigation after learning White left St. George’s School in Rhode Island in 1974. A parent there accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct with a student. The letter was first reported in the Providence Journal on Tuesday.

Although St. Paul’s has no record of misconduct by White at the school, Hirschfeld said in the letter, the school hired Scott Harshbarger, former attorney general of Massachusetts, to lead the investigation.

“I recognize the issue of adult abuse of children has been a deeply painful one for every quarter of this community,” Hirschfeld wrote. “I remain unwavering in my belief that we will heal and ultimately learn in ways that will strengthen the School to benefit the students it serves today, and those it will serve in the future.”

The coeducational boarding school is affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

After St. Paul’s and St. George’s, White served in leadership positions at two other privates schools — Chatham Hall in Virginia and Asheville Country Day in North Carolina — before becoming rector of a church in Waynesville, North Carolina. Waynesville police are investigating White for alleged abuse there, according to the Providence Journal.

White is retired but had been serving as a fill-in pastor at a Pennsylvania Episcopal church when the allegations at St. George’s surfaced. He was suspended from the post in January.

St. Paul’s is the latest prestigious boarding school to be hit with sexual abuse claims involving teachers or staff.

St. George’s agreed this month to settle with up to 30 former students who say they were abused by teachers there. In June, Rhode Island state police concluded a criminal investigation into the allegations at St. George’s with no charges, citing the statute of limitations and changes in the laws.

Earlier this year, two teachers who worked at Phillips Exeter Academy acknowledged sexual misconduct and a former admissions officer pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse charges. Police are investigating other accusations at the private New Hampshire school.

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit against St. Paul’s accuses the school of failing to prevent a sexual assault of a 15-year-old student who said she was raped by another student during a game of sexual conquest in 2014. In response this week, the school said it “lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief” as to whether the girl was sexually assaulted.

Former student Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, was convicted last year of misdemeanor sex assault charges and a felony charge of using a computer to lure the underage student for sex.