ANDOVER, Mass. — An independent investigation into possible sexual abuse at an elite boarding school has uncovered several cases of sexual misconduct by faculty members, the school announced on Tuesday.
The review at Phillips Academy identified five cases in the 1970s and 1980s in which “former faculty members engaged in sexual misconduct involving students,” Head of School John Palfrey said in a letter to the school community.
The review was conducted over several months by the Sanghavi Law Office, which says it’s dedicated to issues facing schools, students and families.
Palfrey asked former students in the spring to come forward with information about sexual misconduct at the school following a series of sexual abuse scandals at some of New England’s most exclusive boarding schools, including Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, and St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island.
In the letter, Palfrey identified three of the former Phillips Academy faculty members involved as Stephen Wicks, H. Schuyler Royce and Alexander Theroux.
Theroux, a former writer-in-residence, “engaged in sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1970s,” and the school received “multiple concerns” related to his “behavior toward students” during the investigation, Palfrey said.
Theroux has denied the allegations but is barred from campus and from school events, the school said. He didn’t immediately return a message left at a phone number listed for him.
Wicks engaged in sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1980s, Palfrey said. He also is barred from campus and from school events. He has not returned two messages seeking comment.
Royce engaged in “multiple incidents” of sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1980s, Palfrey said. The school said it became aware of “additional concerns” related to his behavior toward students during the investigation. He died in 1991.
Palfrey extended his “deepest apologies” to those affected by the abuse and said the school, which is located in Andover and has about 1,100 students in grades 9-12, has notified state officials.
At the Phillips Exeter Academy, at least three staff members this year have been accused of sexual misconduct. The school announced last month it was hiring a director of student well-being to oversee student safety, especially issues involving sexual misconduct, harassment and assault.
At St. George’s School, police looked at allegations of abuse of students by seven former faculty members, one current employee and three former students and at allegations that administrators didn’t report abuse to the proper authorities. But police and prosecutors determined they couldn’t proceed with criminal charges for a variety of reasons, including the statute of limitations and changes in the laws since some of the abuse occurred, as far back as the 1970s. The school has apologized for how it handled abuse cases and said it “cooperated fully” with police.
Alumni have criticized the schools for failing to take abuse allegations seriously or for bungling their internal investigations. At the Phillips Exeter Academy, hundreds of alumni signed a letter to the trustees saying the administration was more focused on concealing sexual assault than addressing it.