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Recent allegations and investigations of child sexual abuse in prep schools have made national headlines. Prep schools can be boarding or day schools, religious or secular, and often have a competitive admissions process, high tuition costs and an insular culture. Prep schools pride themselves on their intimate classroom settings, mentorship in and out of the classroom, and their ability to foster a sense of community among intellectually curious students to prepare them for elite universities. These schools often flaunt their notable alumni on their websites including past presidents, prominent politicians, Noble Prize winners, famous actors and actresses, and Olympians.
By design, prep schools create close-knit relationships between students, administrators, and faculty that aid predators in taking advantage of minors. Because a prep school’s reputation is its currency, the pressure to silence child sexual abuse reports and reporters lends itself to creating a dangerous environment which pedophile teachers, coaches, administrators and employees, readily exploit.
If you or a loved one was sexually abused by a preparatory school administrator, faculty, or staff member, the time to act is now. Attorney Andrew Shubin will fight relentlessly to get victims of prep school sexual abuse the justice they deserve. Call The Law Offices of Andrew Shubin today for a free and confidential consultation at (814) 826-3586.
How Common Is Sexual Abuse at Prep Schools?
In 2016, the Boston Globe found that more than 200 students accused staff members of sexual abuse or harassment at nearly 67 New England private schools, many of which are notable prep schools, since 1991. Across the United States, prep school employees have been accused of child sexual abuse and too often school administrators allow predators to resign quietly or even move to other schools – a practice that is so widespread that it has become known as “passing the trash”.
Factors Contributing to Prep School Sexual Abuse
With the goal of building the next generation of leaders, faculty, administrators, and staff are encouraged to be close with their students under the premise of sharing and nurturing intellectual passions. This intimacy provides the opportunity for abusers to find victims and creates a power dynamic that is used to cover up any predatory behavior.
Boarding schools have the added responsibility of housing students in a secure environment. Away from their families, students live amongst each other and faculty and staff become the main figures of adult authority. In these closed social systems, faculty and staff have outsized amount of access to and control over students which can facilitate sexual abuse of students.
Various aspects of prep schools also contribute to student-on-student abuse. Abuse by other students can be masked as hazing rituals that are considered long-standing traditions at elite schools. Tradition is considered a cornerstone of many prep schools as some have been around since the 19th century. Older students can prey on the younger ones, claiming the abuse is simply part of “school traditions.” Communal living at boarding schools only exacerbates these relations by giving older students greater access to younger ones, away from adult supervision.
Students often come from the public education system to their new prep school and do not know what to expect or what is tolerated. Peers and faculty can take advantage of this situation by camouflaging the abuse as part of the unique experience of going to an elite school and that everyone has to go through it.
Factors that Allow Cover-Ups of Sexual Abuse at Prep School
Many of the factors that contribute to rampant child sexual abuse in prep schools are the same factors that allow perpetuators to hide the abuse. Perpetuators, both faculty/staff and peers, can force victims to stay silent about the abuse by threatening to ruin their educational record.
Graduating from these elite schools is often seen as a gateway to intellectual or professional success; many students would not want to jeopardize their standing at the school. Additionally, because tuition costs are so high, students may feel pressured to not report their abuse as to not waste the money spent on getting into the elite school.
Even for students who speak up about sexual abuse, perpetuators are protected by the school’s indifference or refusal to investigate. Because prep schools are often closed social systems, administrators have a tight grip over public perception of the school. High-profile alumni frequently give large donations to the schools and news of sexual abuse scandals risk those significant contributions. Allegations are silenced by prep school administrators, putting their reputation over their integrity.
A statute of limitations is a law that limits the length of time during which prosecutors can file civil or criminal charges against someone. Schools sometimes withhold allegations of sexual abuse for a certain period of time so that the window for prosecution under the statutes of limitations runs out. By failing to report and address sexual misconduct, prep schools not only tarnish their reputation of elite education but also scar the students they are meant to protect.
Employees who are accused of sexual misconduct are either fired or forced to resign quietly without contacting authorities about the allegation. This allows perpetuators to move to another school with no public record indicating their misconduct. Schools even write glowing letters of recommendation for the dismissed employees. Prep schools not only cover up sexual misconduct but pass off the problems to other schools, giving perpetuators a new pool of victims.
Prominent Child Sexual Abuse Cases at Prep Schools
Catlin Gabel School, Oregon
A 2019 investigation found at least 21 employees were accused of sexual misconduct over the past 40 years. As of April 2020, 16 former students have filed lawsuits against the school, claiming they were sexually abused by faculty members during their time at the school. The “progressive” prep school encourages educational experiences that extend beyond campus boundaries and beyond normal hours which, the lawsuits claim, contributed to the abuse.
Choate Rosemary Hall, Connecticut
At least 12 former teachers at the elite Connecticut boarding school had sexually molested students in a pattern of abuse dating back to the 1960s. One student accused a teacher of rape on a school trip to Costa Rica. The investigation revealed that students or parents notified administrators about abuse but the school kept it quiet or handled it internally. Teachers were allowed to quietly resign and administrators even wrote letters of recommendations for teachers who were fired. Police were not alerted to the misconduct.
Horace Mann School, New York
A 2015 report found that 22 school employees sexually abused more than 60 former students between the 1960s and 1990s. However, the Bronx district attorney’s office could not prosecute any of the cases because the statute of limitations had been exceeded. The elite Bronx prep school agreed to settlements with at least 27 survivors who accused former teachers of sexual misconduct.
The Park School of Buffalo, New York
A 46-page report from 2018 detailed the sexual abuse cases of former students spanning from the 1950s to 2000s. The report revealed how administrators knew about the abuse, purposefully covered up the misconduct, allowed teachers to resign, or explicitly told students to keep quiet. New York’s Child Victims Act, which extends the legal window for victims to file old sexual abuse claims, allowed survivors to sue the Park School for their refusal to report allegations of sexual abuse.
The Pingry School, New Jersey
Since 2018, the Pingry School has been faced with various lawsuits claiming a former teacher abused students since the 1970s. The teacher, who was also a lacrosse coach and scout leader, abused students as young as 12 years old. The lawsuits argue the school administrators failed to notify authorities and families of the survivors about the sexual abuse allegations. As of January 2020, the school has reached a settlement with 34 survivors.
Saint David’s School, New York
Two former students at the elite Manhattan private school claim that three staffers sexual molested them. The lawsuits allege that Saint David’s knew about the sexual abuse and failed to act. Both lawsuits were filed against the school under New York’s Child Victims Act.
Solebury School, Pennsylvania
In 2017, a grand jury weighed in on sexual abuse cases of six former students who are part of a larger 50-year cover-up of sexual misconduct by school employees. Solebury School is known for its informal, “progressive” environment which prosecutors claim “paved the way for abuse of students.” An investigation of the school revealed that administrators did not call police when they heard of relationships between faculty and teenagers.
Westover School, Connecticut
In 2020, a former Westover student sued the all-girls Connecticut boarding school for failing to address allegations of sexual abuse by a former faculty member who was also the squash coach. The former student attended the prep school from 2003 to 2007 and said she was abused by the teacher when she was 15 years old. The suit claims the Westover administration knew about the teacher’s sexual misconduct but failed to investigate or take steps to prevent further abuse.
Contact Our Attorney for Victims of Sexual Abuse at Prep Schools for a Free Consultation
For over thirty years, Attorney Andrew Shubin, has represented victims of child sexual abuse. Attorney Shubin represented multiple Penn State child sexual abuse survivors and is now working with victims to hold prep schools accountable for the abuse they enabled. According to Attorney Shubin, “College-preparatory schools all too often value their reputation over their integrity and duty to protect children. For far too long, these powerful and insular institutions have engaged in a conspiracy of silence that enabled dangerous predators to serially and brazenly sexually abuse generations of children and silence suffering victims.” Shubin added, “It is heartbreaking to think of how many children could have been spared had they cared more about children than their own reputations. It is unfathomable to think about the suffering the institutions caused by silencing reports and reporters of abuse – often for decades.” According to Attorney Shubin, prep schools betrayed their students and families: “We give schools our children and trust, and they give pedophiles access to an unending stream of children, and the time, space and cover to groom and abuse them.”
Were you or your child sexually abused by a preparatory school teacher or faculty member? Contact an experienced lawyer that represents prep school sexual abuse victims like Andrew Shubin to hold the perpetrator responsible for their despicable actions. For a free and private consultation about your legal options, contact The Law Offices of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.