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