Correction: Prep School-Sexual Abuse story

CONCORD, N.H. — In a story Nov. 2 about a report on sexual misconduct at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, The Associated Press erroneously reported when a former Episcopal priest pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a student. The priest pleaded guilty on May 15, not last week.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Report highlights pattern of sexual abuse at prep school

The rector of a prep school in New Hampshire says he is upset by accounts of sexual misconduct involving faculty that go back decades and the school’s failure to protect students under its care

By MICHAEL CASEY

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — Over several decades, former faculty and staff at a prep school are accused of singling out students, plying them with alcohol and then attempting to kiss, fondle and commit other acts of sexual misconduct with them, according to a report released by the school late Wednesday.

The allegations are part of an ongoing investigation by St. Paul’s School into its history of sexual abuse, and the focus of an investigation by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

In May, St. Paul’s first reported detailed allegations against a dozen men and one woman who worked at the school between 1947 and 1999. An addendum released late Wednesday includes details from unnamed former students against five additional staff members, with allegations of abuse that happened as late as 2009.

The new report detailed 15 victims who had come forward to report abuse, while the May report did not provide information on victims.

Overall, a total of 50 victims have been interviewed as part of the investigation being conducted by a Boston law firm. The school has shared the latest findings with local police and the Attorney General’s office. It is unclear whether any of the individuals named in the report would face criminal charges.

St. Paul’s School requested the investigation last year following news reports about one of its former teachers being accused of sexual misconduct while working at St. George’s School in Rhode Island. The former Episcopal priest pleaded guilty in May to sexually assaulting a student during trips to Boston in 1973 while working at St. George’s School and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

“The experiences described in this and the previous reports are profoundly disturbing and shine light on a part of our history that is painful to see and hear,” Rector Michael Hirschfeld said in a letter sent to the school community Wednesday. “However, this history must be confronted directly in order to heal. The survivors of sexual abuse, and our entire community deserve no less.”

The new report details accounts of faculty making inappropriate sexual comments and touching male and female students, along with more serious allegations of abuse.

Several faculty members were accused of taking students on trips or to their apartments where they would give them wine and beer and then attempt to assault them. One faculty member was accused by a student of taking him on a fly fishing trip, giving him wine and then fondling and rubbing his genitals. Another case involved a drunken faculty member exposing himself to a student while on a hiking trip and then attempting to touch him as they drove back to the school.

In several other cases, faculty members were accused of retaliating against students who rebuffed them.

The school has in the past been accused of failing to investigate the allegations — including in 2000 when a group of alumni from the class of 1975 provided the school with a list of 22 faculty and staff members accused of misconduct.

Hirschfeld has said the school’s response in 2000 was discouraging, but said the alumni group’s efforts led to improvements in faculty training and a zero-tolerance policy for those seeking to use students in any way.

On Thursday, the school held an event with students to discuss the latest report. It included group discussions on the impact of sexual harassment and abuse as well as a presentation from an outside expert on sexual assault and what can be done to support survivors.

“We really need to pause. We need to pay attention to the significance of our institutional history,” Theresa Ferns, vice rector for school life, said in a statement. “Today’s programming integrates community support and community education as we acknowledge the School’s history, and our human history, in relation to this subject.”