(St. Paul's School Office of Admission/Facebook)
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire prep school under state oversight for sexual misconduct allegations going back decades received 33 new incident reports in the first half of 2019, according to a reviewer who recommended several measures to improve record-keeping and encourage victims to come forward.
The report issued Wednesday by Jeff Maher, the new compliance overseer at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, was required under an agreement with the attorney general's office that subjected the school to up to five years of oversight in lieu of criminal charges.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, the school received reports of 31 incidents from 25 students and six alumni, plus two incidents that involved neither students nor alumni. The incidents, which include physical and sexual misconduct, didn't necessarily happen in that timeframe.
That total includes two reports of nonconsensual sexual intercourse. In one case, the incident involved two students on campus. In the other, a student reported being the victim of a crime committed by a non-student during a school break in another state. There were also two reports of nonconsensual sexual contact, one involving two students on campus and the other involving a student and non-student in another state.
Other incidents students reported included theft, physical assault and suspected physical activity involving students under the age of consent. The incidents reported by alumni included abuse and hazing while they were students. While the report does not include any outcomes, it seeks to provide baseline information that could be helpful in identifying trends, Maher said in a statement.
"Within and outside the classroom, St. Paul's School offers extraordinary opportunities to its students. As such, it must be expected that the school apply at least equal rigor in its efforts to prevent harm, abuse and harassment in all forms," he wrote.
An independent investigation into St. Paul's in 2017 detailed five decades of sexual misconduct involving more than a dozen former faculty and staff members. Investigators said the school neither protected students at the time nor fully investigated their complaints years later, and while a few abusers were fired, most were allowed to quietly move on. The attorney general's office later conducted its own investigation and found evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but an agreement was reached to put the school under government oversight instead of bringing charges.
In his report, Maher said the platform the school uses for reporting sexual misconduct is not easily accessible through its internal website or parent portal, making it difficult to report allegations anonymously. But he said the school is taking steps to correct that deficiency, as well as problems with its record-keeping system.
Over the last several years, the school has embarked on a series of reforms aimed at preventing abuse, supporting victims and encouraging the reporting of wrongdoing. In a statement, Rector Kathleen Giles said the report offers "many opportunities to continue to build and reinforce a healthy school culture and to make sure that our mindset, policies and practices reflect the priority of student safety and well-being."
The attorney general's investigation was sparked by the allegations involving former faculty and staff, but also by the case of St. Paul's graduate Owen Labrie, who in 2014 was accused of assaulting a freshman girl as part of a "Senior Salute" competition among upperclassman seeking to have sex with younger students. Labrie was convicted of using a computer to lure an underage student for sex, a felony requiring him to register as a sex offender. He also was convicted of three sexual assault charges and endangering the welfare of a child, all misdemeanors.
Though they hadn't yet reviewed the report Wednesday, the girl's parents said they were grateful the state is holding St. Paul's accountable and cautiously optimistic about a "new tone" from the school.
"Our hope is that a culture of accountability that makes student well-being its top priority completely uproots the one that cultivated an environment for abuse and cover-up that persisted for decades," Susan and Alex Prout said in a statement.
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Chessy Prout spoke publicly about the assault for the first time in 2015 and has since become an advocate for survivors.
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