St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Last Monday, the Boston Globe published a front page article about sexual abuse and cover ups at St. George’s School, an elite private school that I attended.

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When Anne Scott initially brought a suit against the school about her molestation by athletic trainer, Al Gibbs, lawyers representing St.George’s claimed she “has a tendency to lie.” They also said that if the 15 year old had sex with the 67 year old, it was consensual. Let me remind you, lawyers representing a school seemed to have no concept of statutory rape. St. George’s also sought to change the case from a “Jane Doe” to use Scott’s real name. Intimidated, Scott dropped her case. Years later, still suffering from the abuse at St. George’s, Scott demanded the school contact alumni about abuse that may have happened. Scott was certain there were other victims. She wanted the school to be accountable and to reach out to others who may  need help. St. George’s started an investigation and sent out letters. According to the school, “tens of women” have responded that they are survivors of abuse. But one of the problems with the investigation is that more victims have said they are not comfortable talking about their experiences to Will Hannum, the lead investigator hired by St. George’s. Hannum is not only a lawyer but a partner of the counsel for St. George’s, not the ideal person to speak with about these experiences. I have been contacted by women who feel this way.

In August, after news about the St. Paul’s rape, another boarding school, the night of “senior salute” I blogged about “Casino Night” a sexist “tradition” when I went to St. George’s. On “Casino Night” all the new girls were supposed to dress up as playboy-like bunnies and sell candy to the older boys who gambled. After that blog (which I learned roughly coincided with St. George’s letter about its investigation) I was contacted by a former student from St. George’s who was sexually assaulted at the school around that time. She was scared to talk to Hannum because she was concerned his goal might be to gather information to protect the school from a lawsuit. Since my blogs, I’ve been contacted by others, first and second hand, about sexual assaults at the school who didn’t know where to turn. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has been approached.

Here are more facts since the Globe article came out about how St. George’s continues to fail it’s alumni from the counsel for Anne Scott (’80), Joan (Bege) Reynolds (’79) and Katie Wales (’80): Eric MacLeish (SGS ’70)

 

  • Since the December 15, 2015 article in the Boston Globe we have received reports from eleven additional alumnae who were sexually molested and assaulted by former SGS athletic trainer Al Gibbs. We also have other calls to return so that figure will rise tomorrow
  • Virtually all of the alumnae are or have suffered psychological injury as a result of their abuse by Gibbs and some are currently in states of crisis. Two have reported suicidal ideation. We are referring alumnae to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (which has agreed to handle calls from outside Massachusetts). We are searching immediately for a clinician to provide crisis services for these individuals and to make referrals. We have asked SGS to retain such a clinician but SGS has not responded
  • Based on Mr. Zane’s notes of four Gibbs victims in the Scott case and the three clients who we represent, the number of Gibbs alumnae victims that we are aware of currently total eighteen
  • SGS has still refused to disclose the number of victims who have come forward to the School alleging sexual assault by Gibbs. This number is likely much higher than the eighteen alumnae victims that we are aware of
  • Headmaster Peterson stated in his letter of November 2, 2015 to alumni that the “majority” of the abuse reports center around three individuals and that most of the reports fall in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We have received reports of abuse from alumni over the past four days, including reports from two former Trustees, regarding five SGS former employees; one report was as recent as 2004
  • SGS has shown a pattern of conduct since 1979 of coercing alumnae who were abused by Gibbs into silence. A student who alleged she was abused in 1979 was told that she was mentally ill and was required to see the School’s consulting psychologist. More recent tactics under current school leadership include requiring a victim seeking mental health care because of Gibbs’ abuse to sign an agreement prohibiting the victim from speaking of about the abuse publicly and, further, that she not “disparage” the School
  • SGS employees violated the Rhode Island Mandatory Abuse reporting law on Gibbs sexual molestation thereby subjecting other children to risks of abuse as Gibbs was alive for fifteen years after he left SGS. We have also received credible reports that SGS violated the same law in 1988, at which time the alleged perpetrator left SGS and went on to teach at another prep school for 11 years
  • Many alumni who came forward to report abuse to the “independent” investigator which Headmaster Peterson referred to in his April 7th letter to alumni were not told by the investigator that he was a partner in a law firm that was actually representing SGS
  • The School’s victim assistance package continues to contain a confidentiality clause which prevents alumni from disclosing that SGS is paying for assistance. At the same time, the agreement contains no provision that requires SGS to keep a victim’s name and assistance package confidential

 

  • SGS alumni have started an online public petition requesting that the School take immediate measures to conduct an independent investigation and provide for an alumni mental health assistance program that is consistent with what other independent school programs have done in similar situations. The petition can be found here

Over the past four days, we have received reports that Headmaster Peterson has been aware of Gibbs’ abuse of SGS students for many years; it was only after he was approached by Anne Scott in February of 2015 that the School sent out its first alumni letter. Mr. MacLeish contacted Mr. Peterson urging him to send out an alumni letter on Gibbs in 2012

From Counsel for Anne Scott (’80), Joan (Bege) Reynolds (’79) and Katie Wales (’80): Eric MacLeish (SGS ’70) and Carmen Durso.

Contact information:  

Anne Scott 443-282-4487, annewmscott@gmail.com;

Eric MacLeish, 617-494-1920, rmacleish@chelaw.com;

Carmen Durso, 617-728-9123, carmen@dursolaw.com

If you care about helping survivors of sexual assault and protecting all kids from having this happen to them, please sign this petition 

 UPDATE: Eric MacLeish contacted me with this info: we retained a clinician, Dr. Paul Zeizel, who is available 7 days a week for SGS victims. He can provide crisis counseling for SGS alums that is confidential. His mobile phone is 857 472 2704. His email is paulzeizel@comcast.net

 

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

Today, the Boston Globe reports on sexual assault at St.George’s school in the 70s and 80s and subsequent cover ups.

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Anne Scott was molested by the school’s athletic trainer, Al Gibbs.There were 4 other girls who told school authorities they were also molested by Gibbs. Apparently, Gibbs was known not only for molesting the girls but for taking pictures them when they were naked or in their underwear and showing those photos to male students at the school.

When Scott filed suit against St. George’s, the school’s lawyers told the court that she was either lying or that the 15 year old having consensual sex with 67 year old, apparently oblivious to statutory rape laws. The Globe reports:

School attorneys also sought to change it from a “Jane Doe” case and reveal Scott’s real name. “Maybe people will come forward and say the plaintiff is a, with all due respect to those in the court, has a tendency to lie, and that would be relevant, also,” said defense attorney William P. Robinson III of the Providence firm Edwards & Angell. (In 2004, Robinson was appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Robinson did not return calls from the Globe.)

But Judge Jacob Hagopian of the US District Court in Rhode Island denied the school’s motion to dismiss and admonished its attorneys that the teenager could not consent to such “detestable” acts. “It violates the criminal laws of the United States,” he said.

In the end, it was Scott who dropped the case. School attorneys had investigated and deposed her parents and were preparing to depose neighbors. “I was 27 years old, I had struggled, and then they came down on my family like a ton of bricks,” she said. “I just wanted it all to go away.”

St. George’s would not agree to the dismissal unless Scott signed a gag order that prohibited her from speaking about the case. MacLeish advised against it.

“The school did everything they could to intimidate Anne,” said MacLeish, of the Cambridge law firm of Clark, Hunt, Ahern & Embry. “It worked.”

While St. George’s is currently running an investigation into the abuse, the Boston Globe reports that the  lead investigator, Will Hannum is a law partner of the legal counsel for the school. Furthermore, comments reported by the Globe from Tony Zane, the head of school at the time, seem to indicate he could’ve worked much harder to prevent Gibbs from finding more victims. Katie Wales, another survivor of Gibb’s abuse tells the Globe:

She said she went to see Zane in 1979 about Gibbs. “He told me I was crazy, making it up to get attention, and that I had to see the school shrink,” Wales said.

Zane claims a different but shockingly apathetic response:

Zane says today that he believed Wales at the time, but thought that she came to him in confidence and “didn’t authorize me to go to Al Gibbs.” He added: “Gibbs declared his innocence until the end, so I was operating on hearsay.”

Though Zane eventually fired Gibbs, he didn’t report the assaults as required by law. When asked by the Globe about his lack of action, Zane replies: “Was that true in Rhode Island in 1980?”

Here’s another Zane quote to the Globe reporter, explaining the school’s aggressive response to Scott’s legal action. “Don’t blame us for trying to defend ourselves against a $10 million lawsuit.”

Wow. Does this guy care at all about the implications of his failure to protect students? Unless I’m missing something, he seems to feel no guilt or remorse about his mistakes, to even realize that the school’s lawyers calling Scott a liar and claiming she may have had consensual sex with a 67 year old were, in fact, mistakes.

A girls dorm at the school is named for Zane’s The Globe reports that the students who brought the suit want the name of the dorm changed and Zane’s portrait taken down from the dining hall.

I went to St. George’s as a freshman in 1983, the last year Zane was at the school. After reading about the St. Paul’s rape the night of ‘senior salute,‘ I blogged about traditions of sexism and female disempowerment at St. George’s. For us, there was Casino Night. All the female “newbies,” mostly freshman and sophomores dressed as bunnies, complete with ears and tails. Here are pictures from my 1984 yearbook:

 

This is how the boys dressed and acted for the same occasion.

 

 

They gambled, we sold them candy. Entitlement, anyone?

One thing I find particularly disturbing about Gibbs’s photos is that he showed them to the male students, all those kids knew this was going on and no one stopped it. The Globe reports:

But one firsthand report came from Katie Wales, class of 1980, who went to see Gibbs after a horseback riding injury. He began to molest her and took photos of her naked in the school’s whirlpool, she says, which he then circulated among the boys at school.

“The taunting by the boys was horrible”

 

When I went to the school, the typical make up of the student government was one female to four males. Here’s a yearbook pic of the prefects.

 

Here’s my best friend and me, captioned “Todd’s toys,” he was a senior prefect.

 

His bequeath in the yearbook? A twenty year sentence. That’s a rape joke.

 

In my last blog about all this, I wrote I remember that prefect as being  a pretty nice guy. I was never raped or sexually assaulted by him or anyone at the school. I was lucky. The school culture under Zane was mostly sexist and not empowering for girls in any way that I can recall. Recently, when telling someone about Casino Night, she asked me if I could have chosen not to wear the bunny suit. I never considered not saying yes.

Here’s my advice to St. George’s:

Take down the portrait of Zane. His apathy was criminal and today, his quotes in the Globe show he hasn’t learned much after all these years. Change the name of the dorm, consider naming it after a woman, maybe Miss Minton? She taught me how to write a killer 5 paragraph essay. Hire a new investigator, one without a conflict of interest, because it seems like you’re only interested in protecting yourself financially. Most importantly, do everything you can to prevent sexual assault and rape from happening again. Commit to ensuring gender equality at the school, meaning: include girls in student government and all positions of leadership and power at the school; make sure women authors and scientists and engineers, philosophers and historians etc are included in the curriculum, appoint women to positions of power and leadership in the faculty as heads of department; hang portraits of female leaders throughout the school; abolish sexist traditions; create a climate where if sexual assault ever occurs, students will feel confident they will be listened to. Educate students about gender equality. Be a leader in this area, stop dragging your feet.

One final thing– when you hire a new investigator, have him contact the expelled kids. I was kicked out in 1985 (for smoking a cigarette in the dorm freshman year and drinking sophomore year.) I never heard got the letter you sent to the alumni about these assaults. While I was lucky, my peers may not have been.