11 Former Prep School Staff Members Accused Of Abusing Students

Students sit at their desk during an exam on June 17, 2015 in La Boisse, near Lyon. Eleven former staff members at a New Hampshire prep school have been accused of sexual abuse against students. JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty

Eleven former staff members at a New Hampshire prep school have been accused of sexually abusing students over several decades.

A report released by Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA) accuses school administrators at the Exeter, New Hampshire, school of failing to act on complaints of abuse, which in some cases include instances of sexual penetration, fondling, forced kissing and other sexual misconduct.

In some cases, the report alleges that school administrators failed to even record complaints of misconduct in the personnel files of staffers, allowing unknowing employers to hire them after the alleged wrongdoings.

The Associated Press has reported that 11 former staff members at PEA have been identified in the accusations, with some of the accused having been fired, moved onto new jobs or having passed away in the time the allegations spanning around seven decades were made.

Exeter officials issued an apology to the school community and alleged victims, saying they "accept full responsibility" for the "harm that has been suffered," according to the Associated Press.

"On the Academy's behalf, we accept full responsibility for the harm that has been suffered and for the failures of those whose responsibility it was to prevent and address such harm," PEA Interim Principal William K. Rawson and President of the Trustees John A. "Tony" Downer wrote.

"We recognize the enormous violation of trust and the lasting wounds inflicted and endured," they said.

Outlining the findings of its investigation, law firm Holland & Knight LLP said it had been engaged by PEA in April of 2016 "to investigate allegations of past misconduct by PEA faculty and staff toward individuals who were students at PEA at the time the alleged misconduct occurred."

The law firm said it conducted 294 interview with more than 170 individuals, completing 28 separate investigations, of which 26 "involved reported misconduct of a sexual nature by a PEA faculty or staff member towards a PEA student occurring at points spanning from the 1950s to the 2010s."

Of its 26 investigations concerning sexual misconduct, Holland & Knight determined that in seven cases "the information learned during the investigation led to a finding that some or all of the reported sexual misconduct did occur."

"In those seven matters, the sexual misconduct included sexual penetration, fondling, and/or kissing of a PEA student by a PEA faculty or staff member," the law firm said.

In five other investigations, the law firm determined "that there existed some level of conduct of a sexual nature or inappropriate attention to boundaries in the form of physical touching of students, including by hugs, back rubs or other touching, and/or verbal interactions or innuendo with students."

One of those matters involved alleged sexual abuse of a student by a faculty member, including oral and anal sex in the late 1940s to early 1950s, the law firm said, adding that the "report was made by a PEA alumnus directly to PEA and bore indicia of reliability."

"However, Holland & Knight was unable to investigate the matter because the alleged perpetrator was deceased and the reporting party did not wish to participate in the investigation," the law firm said.

In six of its investigations, Holland & Knight determined that there was no sexual misconduct, with the law firm unable to make a determination on the rest of the cases due to a lack of information or due to parties being unwilling or unable to participate in interviews.

Overall, the law firm said it found "systemic deficiencies" in PEA's handling of sexual misconduct allegations, with the school showing a "pattern of...failing to respond to, investigate and communicate internally regarding reported misconduct in an effective and appropriate manner and, in certain circumstances, failing to report misconduct to the appropriate authorities."

The law firm's report is the latest to support claims that sexual misconduct by family members has been a widespread issue at prep schools in New England, with another New Hampshire prep school, St. Paul's School, releasing a separate report detailing alleged abuse by 20 former faculty members going back decades.