Report backs sex abuse claims against 13 at prep school

FILE - This Feb. 26, 2016 file photo shows the entrance to St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. The school released a report on Monday, May 22, 2017, detailing sexual misconduct allegations against a dozen men and one woman who worked at the school between 1952 and 1999. An investigation found substantiated claims of abuse involving 13 former faculty and staff including former teachers, chaplains and an admissions officer. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — An independent investigation into sexual misconduct at an elite New Hampshire prep school found credible allegations against 13 former faculty and staff, along with evidence the school failed to either protect students at the time or fully investigate their complaints when asked 17 years ago.

St. Paul’s School released a report Monday detailing allegations against a dozen men and one woman who worked at the school between 1947 and 1999. The list includes former teachers, chaplains, a counselor and an admissions officer accused of a range of misconduct.

A few were fired, but most were quietly “moved on” with letters of recommendations for their next jobs, according to the Boston law firm Casner & Edwards.

“Put simply but starkly, 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,” the report says. It says the impact on the students, the tolerance by those who knew and the lack of awareness by most of the faculty and leadership “is all equally troubling.”

St. Paul’s requested the investigation last year following news reports about Howard White, who was fired from St. George’s School in Rhode Island for sexual misconduct in 1974 and had previously worked at St. Paul’s. The former Episcopal priest pleaded guilty last week 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.

White was a chaplain and teacher of sacred studies at St. Paul’s, where he is accused of repeatedly raping a 15-year-old boy who accompanied him on a six-week long summer trip. David Duncan, the attorney who represented him in the Boston case, declined to comment.

Rector Michael Hirschfeld, a 1985 graduate of St. Paul’s, said reading the details of the allegations was “sickening and disheartening.”

“For me as the head of the school, the institutional failure to take care of kids is hard to think about, and of course I think about the survivors and how hard it must have been for them to not feel supported by the school,” he said. “Some of this occurred when I was a student here, and I was completely oblivious to it.”

One of the few accused faculty members who was fired was the Rev. Douglas Haviland, who worked at St. Paul’s from 1947 to 1950 as a chaplain, teacher and house master. Alumni described him “creeping around” the dorm at night molesting boys and said students routinely scrawled gay slurs about him in chalk on the floors of campus buildings in an effort to alert the administration.

One student who was regularly taken by Haviland to his room for late night “prayer sessions” killed himself in 1949 after other students hazed him about the abuse, they said.

At the time, the school sent a letter to parents saying Haviland was fired because of “homosexual advances towards certain of the boys under him.” He died in 1971.

The 13 substantiated cases also include allegations against Edward “Larry” Katzenbach, who taught English and history from 1971 to 1995. Investigators concluded Katzenbach, who died in 1997, committed 10 acts of sexual misconduct, including exposing himself to several female students and grabbing one girl’s breast. That student said she reported the 1974 incident to an administrator at the time and was asked, “What did you do to make him behave that way?”

In 2000, a group of alumni from the class of 1975 provided the school with a list of 22 faculty and staff members accused of misconduct. Though the school told the group the investigation would be “far ranging and the chips will have to fall where they may,” only three people were investigated in part because the school wanted to “preserve the reputation of SPS and any deceased former faculty member who was unable to defend himself,” according to the report.

Hirschfeld 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. He said the report “provides us a starting point for healing.”

The school’s alumni include Secretary of State John Kerry and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

In 2015, recent graduate Owen Labrie was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and other charges involving a female freshman. Prosecutors say he assaulted the girl as part of game of sexual conquest. The school has denied it could have prevented the assault, but it has since taken steps to “prevent and reduce risky adolescent behavior.”

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