2015-12-17 / Front Page

Sex Abuse Alleged at St. George’s

By Tom Walsh

St. George’s School, the elite, coeducational boarding school that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean from its Middletown perch, confirmed on Dec. 15 that for nearly a year it has been independently investigating alumni allegations of “sexual misconduct” during the 1970s and 1980s.

In a Nov. 2 letter to alumni, Head of School Eric F. Peterson and trustee Chair Leslie Bathgate Heaney explained that, “While our investigation is not yet fully complete, it is entering its final stages.” Citing information gathered from alumni, parents, current and former trustees, and current and former employees, the school officials reported, “We have identified multiple credible reports of sexual misconduct at the school, ranging from unprofessional behaviors to outright sexual assault.”

They said the investigation has determined that no present school employees were involved.

News of the school’s investigation and findings emerged publicly on Dec. 14 as a result of a story published by The Boston Globe.

In a statement given to Newport This Week the following day, the school maintained that, “Throughout our investigation St. George's has been committed to seeking the truth without reservation, and to supporting and assisting any and all alumni who were harmed. We began this process because it was the right thing to do. Today, as the investigation nears its end, we remain steadfast in our efforts to help our alumni address any wounds from long ago.”

In the Nov. 2 letter, Peterson and Heaney wrote, “The majority of the reports center around three perpetrators.” They identified one of them as the late Al Gibbs, an athletic trainer at the school until 1980. “He is reported to have committed multiple acts of misconduct and abuse, principally with girls at the school," the letter stated.

They disclosed to alumni that “the other two perpetrators are still alive but no longer working in Rhode Island.” The school leaders said they are “working with law enforcement” and that “in deference to the authorities and any possible criminal prosecutions, we are not publicly identifying them at this time.”

The school officials maintained that the school had tried in the past “to address the misconduct and respond.” However, they also said the school could have done more “both to understand the scope of any specific misconduct and more particularly to support the victims.” They added, “Though these events took place many years ago, we recognize and acknowledge that the wounds of victims are deep and enduring. Accordingly, the school offers its most heartfelt and sincere apologies, and asks forgiveness for the harm suffered.”

The Globe’s report focused on the sexual abuse suffered by Anne Scott of Wilmington, Del., who attended St. George’s in the late 1970s. In her mid-20s, Scott hired a lawyer who filed at $10 million lawsuit on her behalf. When the school defended itself aggressively, Scott dropped the suit. This year her lawyer filed another lawsuit seeking no financial compensation. Rather, the Globe reported, she seeks “accountability” from the school.

St. George’s officials informed alumni in their Nov. 2 letter that the school has already set up a “victims support fund” to reimburse counseling costs related to sexual misconduct at the school. In addition, they are working to set up a “full spectrum of support services” to help victims.

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