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Elite St. Paul’s School under criminal investigation after sexual misconduct revelations

By: The Washington Post , Kyle Swenson, Fred Barbash//July 14, 2017

Elite St. Paul’s School under criminal investigation after sexual misconduct revelations

By: The Washington Post , Kyle Swenson, Fred Barbash//July 14, 2017//

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St. Paul’s School, the elite New England boarding school dogged in recent months by allegations of past sexual abuse and misconduct, is now the target of a criminal investigation by local and state authorities.

In a statement released Thursday evening, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald announced investigators will examine whether the school engaged in conduct that endangered the welfare of a child.

“Protection of children is a paramount priority for law enforcement,” MacDonald said in the release. “I am confident that an institution such as St. Paul’s School will be fully cooperative with this investigation as it has pledged.”

The attorney general’s office stated the investigation was triggered by a series of issues that have come out at the school.

A May 2017 report documented how “thirteen former faculty and staff members at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., engaged in sexual misconduct with students over four decades.”

“Put simply but starkly,” said the report prepared by a private law firm, “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.”

One teacher of English and history from 1971 to 1995, the report said, committed 10 acts of sexual misconduct, including having a sexual relationship with a female student, grabbing another female student’s breast under her shirt, “pulling his pants down” and exposing himself while telling a female student to “‘touch it'” and repeatedly propositioning female students. The report did not give the students’ ages.

A French teacher who is now deceased, the report said, “engaged in a consensual sexual relationship” with a male student in the 1970s that consisted primarily of oral sex.”

A chaplain and teacher of sacred studies, Howard Willard “Howdy White Jr., who sexually abused and raped a 15-year-old student during a school summer trip, later pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

A teacher of Asian studies had sexual intercourse with a student two times a week in 1982, the report said.

Within weeks’ of the report, St. Paul’s was again under scrutiny after administrators learned of a sexual conquest game involving eight boys from the same dormitory.

As first reported in the Concord Monitor, before commencement in early June administrators discovered the game from concerned students. The school hired an independent investigator to look into the allegations. The game, according to the paper, was a competition where the winner’s name was written on a crown.

The details of the so-called game remain unclear, except that a group of underclassmen were “writing down their relationships with other students on a fast-food chain crown,” the Monitor reported.

In 2015, St. Paul’s was in the national spotlight following the rape trial of Owen Labrie. The former St. Paul’s senior was accused of raping a female underclassmen as part of a “Senior Salute.” In August 2015, Labrie was acquitted of rape but convicted of misdemeanor counts of statutory rape and endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to a year in prison.

After the trial, the victim, who was 15 at the time of the crime, went public. “St. Paul’s School is operating in a bubble of denial,” said Chessy Prout, “and their students are paying the consequences. “Real people are being harmed because of the students’ irresponsible and damaging actions and the administration’s inaction,” she said in a statement. “When will school administrators and trustees show real leadership that truly puts the well-being of students ahead of their own reputation.”

Following Thursday’s announcement from the attorney general, a school administrator said St. Paul’s would “fully cooperate” with the investigation, the Globe reports.

“We have been in close contact with local law enforcement regarding recent incidents of concern, and we will continue to fully cooperate with any inquiries we receive,” St. Paul’s Rector Michael G. Hirschfeld said in a statement. “We also intend to work closely with the attorney general’s office to answer any and all questions regarding the independent report issued last month. Our goal is and always will be the health, safety, and well-being of our students. We will work tirelessly to meet that goal and strengthen the public’s faith in St. Paul’s School.”

St. Paul’s is just one of a number of elite private schools that have come under scrutiny due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut reported in April that at least 12 former teachers had sexually molested students, with some incidents going back decades and others as recent as 2010, The Washington Post reported.

The Boston Globe Spotlight team reported in a comprehensive story last year claims against at least 67 private New England schools involving more than 200 victims.

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