Sexual Harassment

Chester Irons' relationship with St. Paul’s School didn’t always feel so complicated.

He’s in his 60s now, yet he can still remember the exhilarating feeling of being dropped off at the Concord boarding school for the first time.

"I stepped out of the car with my parents and said goodbye to them and ran off with a bunch of friends I met literally 20 minutes earlier. It was a new beginning, a new adventure and I was very excited," he recalled in a recent phone interview.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A review of sexual harassment and misconduct complaints against lawmakers across the country shows a half dozen New Hampshire House members faced allegations in the last few years.

The Associated Press filed records requests in every state seeking information on complaints made since 2008. The New Hampshire House provided information about eight complaints involving six members, but it only had records dating back to 2015. The Senate said it had no records of such complaints.

David Folkenflik joins us as part of our Justice & Journalism series with UNH Law School. We talk about the vast changes in journalism he's seen in recent years, from the impact of social media, to "fake news," to covering the #MeToo movement, including at NPR. 

In the months since #MeToo went viral on social media, millions of people across the globe have broken the silence on their stories of sexual assault and harassment. But where do we stand in New Hampshire? How has the Granite State responded to the Me Too movement? What conversations are we having? What actions are we taking?

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu says he wouldn’t have a problem with requiring state lawmakers to undergo anti-harassment training, at least in theory.

NHPR Staff

Dartmouth College is close to completing sexual misconduct investigations into three of the school’s psychology professors. The professors – Paul Whalen, Bill Kelley and Todd Heatherton – have been on leave with restricted access to campus since last fall.

Depending on the findings of the investigations, the school will soon consider disciplinary action where appropriate, President Phil Hanlon wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff Monday.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

When it comes to getting lawmakers to take sexual harassment seriously, State House officials have said they only have so much control — that there's no rule forcing legislators to read the institution’s policy on harassment, let alone attend workshops on the issue. An anti-harassment training session held several weeks ago drew a turnout of only about 10 percent.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

Rep. Bob Backus of Manchester said he thought Tuesday morning's anti-harassment training for legislators was worthwhile — even if, he conceded, he might not have absorbed the whole thing.

“I wasn’t fully awake and participating very well,” Backus, a Democrat, said in the hallway after the 8:30 a.m. presentation wrapped up.

Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

New Hampshire lawmakers will get a refresher course this week on the State House’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. The program, scheduled for Wednesday morning in Representatives’ Hall, is not mandatory – but legislative leaders have said it is encouraged. 

File photo

St. Paul’s School in Concord is settling a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a former student, Chessy Prout, who was a 15-year-old freshman at the elite boarding school when she accused then senior Owen Labrie of sexually assaulting her.

State Senator Andy Sanborn at a political event at The Draft, the bar and restaurant he owns in Concord

A top State House leader said this week that an incident involving a sitting senator prompted him to seek the advice of an outside law firm, a process that spurred a larger overhaul of the New Hampshire Legislature’s anti-harassment policy several years ago.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

All State House lobbyists got a first-of-its-kind letter from leaders of the New Hampshire House and Senate last week, detailing the Legislature’s sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures. Its message was simple: Lobbyists should know they’re covered by those policies, too, and should feel comfortable speaking up if they experience harassment.

Allegra Boverman

A massive winter storm is moving along the eastern seaboard on Thursday.

 Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Gov. Chris Sununu about how New Hampshire is preparing for the storm and how to access assistance in a case of an emergency.


Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Republican State Senator and 1st District Congressional Candidate Andy Sanborn has acknowledged his use of “crass language” in early 2013 prompted an internal review involving the Senate’s legal counsel and then-Senate President.

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

Stories of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct are not just relegated to Washington or New York. They ricocheted from Congress to Concord, as Casey McDermott reported this week. Her story, "Women Lobbyists, Legislators Describe Coping with Harassment at N.H. Statehouse," pulled the curtain back on serious complaints. 

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: December 8, 2017

Dec 8, 2017

New Hampshire becomes the first state to opt out of FirstNet, a federal program designed to help first responders better communicate across the country.  Hillary Clinton returns to New Hampshire to sign copies of her book, and attracts protests and ponies as well as fans.  Eversource prepares to switch on its first major new power line in New Hampshire in 20 years.  And the Rockingham County attorney’s office releases more than 900 pages of the state’s investigation into Phillips Exeter Academy. 

 New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan is joining other female Democratic lawmakers in calling on Senator Al Franken to resign. The Minnesota Democrat has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct in recent weeks.

“It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women, and he should resign,” Hassan says in a statement today.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Twelve years ago, a sexual harassment scandal at the New Hampshire State House ended with the institution being forced to pay $85,000 in public funds toward a settlement. It also prompted a broader reckoning about how the Legislature handled misconduct within its ranks.

Related Story: Women Lobbyists, Legislators Describe Coping With Harassment At N.H. State House

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian contributed to this report.

An additional three dozen lawmakers have signed and returned paperwork acknowledging that they’ve read the Statehouse sexual harassment policy in the week since NHPR first published a list of legislators’ signatures on file. 

That brings the total in compliance to a little more than three-quarters of the 400-member House.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A state lawmaker wants to give employees who work at the New Hampshire Statehouse the same protections afforded to their counterparts in other public sector jobs across the state.

Right now, New Hampshire's public employee labor act applies to employees at state agencies, the judicial branch, the state university system and other public bodies. But the employees who work at the Statehouse are left out.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As reported earlier this week, New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper says he's disappointed that roughly one-quarter of his chamber has not signed a form acknowledging they’ve read the official State House sexual harassment policy.

Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper says he’s disappointed that roughly one-quarter of his chamber has not signed a form acknowledging they’ve read the official Statehouse sexual harassment policy. The way he sees it, “there should be 100 percent compliance.”

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Dartmouth's student newspaper published a statement Saturday from a group of 15 students and postdoctoral researchers in the college's Psychological and Brain Sciences Department, offering further details on allegations against three of the department's professors.

The professors -- Todd Heatherton, Bill Kelley and Paul Whalen -- are under investigation by both college and law enforcement officials for sexual misconduct. 

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including House Representative Annie Kuster, have introduced legislation to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in Congress.

The Me Too bill would require more transparency and provide better support for victims and whistleblowers. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Congresswoman Kuster by phone about the bill.

  (Editor's note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Lorie Shaull / Wikimedia Commons

Three members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation say they support an ethics probe of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken following sexual harassment accusations by a radio anchor.

WMUR-TV reports Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Democratic Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster expressed support for an ethics investigation Thursday. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, said she couldn't comment because the case may be evaluated by the committee.

NHPR Staff

A former Dartmouth professor says she reported an incident of sexual harassment involving Todd Heatherton – one of three professors now under criminal investigation – to the college about 15 years ago, raising questions about Dartmouth's handling of misconduct complaints.

MattBritt00 via Flickr Creative Commons

Details of a criminal investigation into three professors at Dartmouth College remain unclear. The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office announced the investigation Tuesday after learning from Dartmouth that there had been allegations of sexual misconduct by the professors. The college had announced its own internal investigations last week, but didn't offer details of any allegations.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Allegations of sometimes serial sexual harassment involving high-profile perpetrators have led to an outpouring of outrage. And in many cases, predatory behavior appears to have gone on for years, even decades, with multiple victims either afraid to come forward or kept silent by nondisclosure agreements. Often many others knew of inappropriate or bullying behavior but failed to speak up.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen came to UNH on Monday to ask University researchers and local law enforcement what the US Armed Forces Committee can learn about sexual assault from the civilian community. She says she’s hoping the information will help inform her colleagues as they shape sexual assault policies in the 2014 Military Defense Authorization Act.

I think we will get a good bill past.

But, Shaheen says, the question is whether the committee will require that sex crimes be investigated by non-military prosecutors. 

When the New York Hotel Trades Council ratified a new contract for hotel workers last month, much of the media coverage focused on "panic buttons." Coming after the sexual assault allegations against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the idea of housekeepers wearing a badge that could call for help was all over the news.