Boarding School: 7 Former Staffers Sexually Abused Students

August 18, 2018 - 2:17 pm

SALISBURY, Conn. (AP) — Seven former faculty members sexually abused students for decades while school administrators failed to take action, an independent investigation released by an elite Connecticut boarding school found.

The report released late Friday by the Hotchkiss School near the New York state line found that 16 students were subjected to unwanted contact from male faculty, including intercourse and unnecessary gynecological exams. It also documented instances when administrators failed to intervene when made aware of the sexual misconduct, which happened between 1969 and 1992.

It's the latest prestigious boarding school in New England to deal with allegations of pervasive sexual misconduct in recent years, including St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Hotchkiss officials said in a letter with the report that they have notified law enforcement and other authorities about the report's findings, including any subsequent employers of the former staffers. They've also stripped titles and recognitions bestowed on staffers and removed the names of former school heads who failed to act from any prizes, scholarships, endowments and spaces on campus, including their portraits.

And officials said Arthur White, who served as the headmaster from 1983 to 1989, has resigned from the Board of Trustees after cooperating with investigators.

"To the survivors of abuse, we apologize from the bottom of our hearts," wrote Jean Weinberg Rose, president of the school's board of trustees, and Craig Bradley, the school's current head. "The School did not live up to its commitment to protect you. We apologize with humility — understanding that words cannot measure our sadness and regret or erase the harm that you endured. "

The 36-page report was compiled by the law firm Lock Lord through interviews with more than 150 individuals and reviewing about 200,000 pages of documents.

It said the misconduct happened primarily during the 1970s and 1980s and largely involved seven teachers and staffers: Christopher Carlisle, an English teacher from 1963 to 1982, Ronald Carlson, an English teacher from 1971 to 1981, George DelPrete, an athletic director and history teacher from 1970 to 2004, Dr. Peter Gott, the school's medical director from 1972 to 2005, Albert Sly, a music teacher from 1950 to 1970 and again in 2008, Leif Thorne-Thomsen, a classics teacher from 1964 to 1992, and Damon White, an English teacher from 1983 to 2012.

The report goes into lengthy detail about Thorne-Thomsen's controversial tenure and the failures of administrators to act on allegations. Investigators said he engaged in sexual misconduct with female students over nearly two decades, targeting vulnerable girls who had experienced earlier sexual abuse.

"Thorne-Thomsen would ingratiate himself with them by sharing personal details about his life and coax them into believing that he was relying on them for emotional support," the report said. "He used the trust these students placed in him as a teacher and mentor to engage in repeated acts of sexual misconduct."

The report says Thorne-Thomsen, Carlson, DelPrete and White declined through legal counsel to be interviewed by investigators. Carlisle, Gott and Sly are deceased.

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