Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite Connecticut boarding school, has reportedly admitted to decades of sexual abuse of students by staff since 1963 until as recently as 2010.
A 50-page report on the Choate allegations, prepared by an investigator from the firm Covington & Burling, documents the actions of 12 former teachers upon 24 victims at the Wallingford, Connecticut, school – from sexual groping to rape.
An excerpt from the report reads:
Certain Choate graduates described themselves as having been flattered, at the time, by attention they received from faculty or staff, but told us they later recognized that the conduct had been abusive. They described Choate faculty and staff engaging in acts with them that included intimate kissing, intimate touching, and sexual intercourse. Other graduates told us of contact that they recognized as abusive at the time, including forced or coerced intercourse, as well as other incidents of unwanted contact that led students to feel betrayed by faculty or staff they had trusted and admired. Regardless of how the graduates felt at the time, many reported to us that these physical or sexual encounters with faculty or staff, who had occupied positions of authority and trust, disturbed them throughout their adult lives.
The investigation showed that when allegations of sexual abuse were made to Choate officials, they handled the complaints secretly.
“Choate did not make any reports to DCF [Department of Children and Families] regarding adult sexual misconduct prior to 2010,” the report states.
“It was all part of that bunker, protect-ourselves-at-all-costs-mentality,” said Boston attorney Larry Hardoon, who represents victims of sexual abuse, reports the Hartford Courant. “‘Here’s a problem, let’s just get rid of the problem, make him somebody else’s problem. Life will continue for us unaltered.'”
The investigation found that, in one case, a former teacher accused of sexually abusing students 20 years ago left Choate to teach in the state’s public schools. Ultimately, he became principal of a Litchfield regional high school but resigned his position before the Choate report was released.
“We honor and thank the survivors of sexual misconduct who came forward,” a letter from Choate headmaster Alex Curtis and chairman of the board of trustees Michael J. Carr states. “We extend our deepest apologies most specifically to all survivors of sexual misconduct and their loved ones.”
The officials note that they have been involved in an effort to become more open about the problem of sexual misconduct since 2014.
The report comes following the Boston Globe’s recent series on sexual abuse in elite New England prep schools. Within the past two years, many such schools, including St. George’s School in Rhode Island, Taft School in Connecticut, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and Concord Academy in Concord, have had staff placed on leave or fired due to alleged sexual misconduct.
Choate is now attempting more openness about allegations and has invited students and alumni to come forward with their concerns.
Hardoon said prep schools have learned the best way to protect their institutions is to acknowledge the truth. In the past, elite schools would often blame the alleged victim.
“The victims often were the ones that would wind up being alienated, getting drummed out of school because of the way it was handled,” he said, while “the perpetrator ends up not paying any price.”
Connecticut attorney Julie Fay also expects more schools to invite past students to come forward with allegations.
“These are the conversations I think schools are having: Do we have anything back there?” she said. “They want to make sure there is no one out there who is an alum of their school who is suffering in silence.”
Alumni of the exclusive Choate school include President John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.
“They are closed systems, especially residential private schools where kids are separated from their parents,” attorney Paul Mones told the New York Times. “It’s not like a public school, with people coming in and out all the time. There are many more opportunities for teachers to do this.”
Choate has created a fund for alumni who require counseling following sexual abuse experienced at the school and is working with experts on improving its practices.