California's Elite Thacher School Reveals Sex Abuse Allegations Stretching Back 40 Years

An elite private boarding school in California has acknowledged decades of allegations of sexual misconduct, rape and "boundary crossing" by faculty members towards students.

The Thacher School, a $64,700-a-year boarding facility, per the Los Angeles Times, in the city of Ojai, California, admitted in a 90-page report on Wednesday that there had been around 20 allegations of various types of sexual misconduct at the academy dating back to the 1980s.

The school hired the Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson to compile the report in August 2020 after several alumni alleged incidents of sexual misconduct to the Instagram account @rpecultureatthacher. The law firm interviewed around 120 former students, parents and current and former staff.

The report identified six alleged perpetrators by name and recounted episodes described by students of incidents involving unwanted touching, groping and inappropriate comments, while alleging administrators covered up the incidents.

One of the most serious incidents in the report involved a student at the school in the 1980s alleging that her English teacher repeatedly raped her from the age of 16. The statement claimed that the facility did not call the police and said that the assistant headmaster asked the girl if she "enjoyed" it while investigating the claim.

The girl accused the teacher of raping her several times between her freshman and junior year at the school after initially kissing her and touching her body.

After the girl shared the allegations with her mother, she contacted the school, and the English teacher resigned from his post when confronted by administrators. The school never contacted the police and its college recommendation letter for the student noted her "unfortunate involvement with a faculty member," according to the report.

A psychologist who spoke with the student at the time about the alleged incidents, reported the accusations to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, who cleared the teacher citing that the "complainant refuses to participate."

The report also alleged that Michael Mulligan, a dean of students in the 1980s, had previously worked with a teacher at another facility who had an inappropriate relationship with a female student. Mulligan reported that teacher to the facility and the latter was asked to leave the school.

However, the report claims that Mulligan later hired the teacher at the Thacher School believing that he would not repeat the conduct. The teacher was then alleged to have engaged in inappropriate conduct with several female students.

Mulligan apologized to staff, parents and alumni in a letter dated June 12 after several victims came forward to allege sexual assault and misconduct from faculty at the facility.

"I particularly regret situations where certain decisions I made contributed to this suffering, and I fully accept that criticism," he wrote.

"My fervent hope is that the conclusions that the Board has reached and the corrective actions they and the current administration undertake as a result will contribute in important ways to doing 'the best work... that we can,' with and for their students."

In a letter accompanying the report on Wednesday, Daniel W. Yih, the chair of Thacher's governing board, confirmed that none of the accused teachers are still employed at the elite facility.

"The impact on students was profound. Many suffered lasting harm not just from the sexual misconduct itself but also from the school's handling of the misconduct," the board of trustees said in a statement.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office told The Los Angeles Times that the department was in the process of investigating all the accusations made after being provided the report on the same day that it was published on the facility's website. No one has yet been charged for any of the alleged incidents.

Sgt. Hector Macias, the head of the department's sexual assault unit, said: "We are going to look into them on a case-by-case basis. We are going to continue to work with the school and their law office in order to vet some of this out and see if the victims are willing to cooperate."

Capt. Eric Buschow told the Times that there are concerns that several incidents will fall outside of the statute of limitations, saying: "If that statute has run out, you have cases that cannot be prosecuted regardless of the outcome. So that's a concern."

Newsweek has contacted the Thacher School and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office for comment.

The Thacher School acknowledges sexual misconduct
The Thacher School, the alma mater of actor Noah Wyle, is seen July 21, 2000 in Ojai, CA. The school acknowledged on Wednesday that there have been decades of allegations of sexual misconduct, rape and “boundary crossing” by faculty members on students. Frederick M. Brown/Online USA/Getty Images

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts