Two Alumni Sue St. Paul's School, Allege Sex Abuse By Faculty

May 3, 2018

Two alumni are suing St. Paul’s School for not protecting them from sexual abuse by faculty members in the 1960s and 70s, and their lawsuit calls the Concord prep school a “haven for sexual predators” that has failed to protect children for decades.  

The complaint comes from alumni Keith Mithoefer, who was a St. Paul’s student from 1966 to 1970, and George Chester Irons, who attended from 1973 to 1976. Irons went on to become president of the school's alumni association, chairman of its Alumni Fund and a member of the school Board of Trustees. (Scroll to the bottom of this story to read full text of the suit.)

The lawsuit appears to be only the second case filed against St. Paul’s School by students claiming negligence regarding sexual abuse and assault. In January, St. Paul’s settled a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a former student, Chessy Prout. Prout was a 15-year-old freshman at the elite boarding school when she accused then senior Owen Labrie of sexually assaulting her.

In July, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office launched a criminal investigation into St. Paul’s over allegations of sexual abuse and assault. Officials said the investigation is focused on “whether the school engaged in conduct constituting endangering the welfare of a child.”

In this lawsuit, both Mithoefer and Irons detail multiple, separate experiences of sexual abuse, unwanted touching or uncomfortable conversations about sex with St. Paul’s faculty members.

Both said the experiences caused them emotional and psychological harm throughout their lives.

Irons’ wife, Barbara, is also a plaintiff in the suit, as she said she’s suffered the loss of her husband’s “aide, assistance, comfort, society, companionship, affection and conjugal relation” as a result of the alleged sexual abuse.

Mithoefer alleges he was inappropriately touched by three faculty members, including Gerry Studds, who later went on to serve as a Massachusetts congressman.

In the complaint, Mithoefer details multiple times where he felt “betrayed, terrified” and “increasingly scared” because of unwanted touching or inappropriate conversations about sex from faculty members.

“By Mithoefer’s senior year at St. Paul’s,” the complaint alleges, “Mitheofer was scared to be on school grounds.”

In the lawsuit, Mithoefer said he told then St. Paul’s Rector William Oates about the inappropriate touching by one faculty member, but Mithoefer alleges the rector “made it clear that he did not want any trouble and that whether Mithoefer received his diploma depended upon whether Mithoefer would remain silent.”

Mithoefer, who now lives in Dorset, Vt., could not be reached for comment.

The other plaintiff, Irons, alleges that an influential administrator named Coolidge “Cal” Chapin brought him and other students to a brothel in New York City in the winter of 1973-74, where Chapin stripped to his underwear and ordered the students to have sex with prostitutes.

Irons' complaint says that at the time, he had “no sexual experience or understanding of sexual acts” and the experience left him “terrified, demoralized and numb.”

Irons isn’t the only St. Paul’s alumnus to accuse Chapin of improper behavior. These allegations mirror experiences cited by other students in a two-part report compiled by Casner and Edwards, a law firm hired by St. Paul’s to look into allegations of sexual misconduct.

In the most recent report, an anonymous student shared a similar account of a trip to New York with Chapin in 1969. The student alleges Chapin took two students to a brothel where all three of them had sex with prostitutes in the same room.

Irons and his wife live in Palm Beach, Florida and could not be reached for comment

Both plaintiffs argue that the earlier St. Paul’s reported this abuse, the earlier they could have sought assistance to deal with the psychological harm these events have caused.

In a letter to the St. Paul’s community Tuesday, board president Archibald Cox. Jr, apologized to the former students.

“Their stories are terrible,” Cox said. “We are truly sorry for the pain they experienced and for any failure of the School to protect them.”

Cox said the allegations of faculty wrongdoing are “deeply troubling,” and said the idea that the administration knew about the abuse and covered it up is “disgraceful.”

Read the lawsuit:

Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mr. Studds' last name.