2016-01-07 / Front Page

St. George's Scandal Expands

By Tom Walsh

The magnitude of the sexual abuse scandal that occurred at St. George’s School in Middletown during the 1970s and 1980s expanded dramatically during the first week of January.

According to the prestigious Episcopal boarding school’s own investigation, at least 26 students were sexually abused by three school employees during that period. In a statement, St. George’s apologized for the “harm done to alumni by former employees and former students at the school.” The school expressed its “regret, sorrow and shame” that students were hurt and once again said that it has forwarded information to the Rhode Island State Police. The state police are investigating.

Although the sexual abuse alleged at St. George’s occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, under Rhode Island law there is no statute of limitations on these matters.

Meanwhile, at a press conference in Boston on Jan. 5 that attracted New England and national media, several former students who say they were sexually abused accused current and past administrators of an effort to protect the school from scandal by covering up the systemic abuse. The students also maintained that the school’s own investigation was not sufficiently independent because the investigator, Will Hannum, is a law partner of the counsel for St. George’s.

Of St. George’s Head of School Eric F. Peterson, the rebuttal from former students declared, “In the end, it is the behavior of Mr. Peterson and the school in 2015 which is scandalous.”

Their attorneys also maintain that, so far, 40 people have come forward with credible allegations of abuse. These situations were said to involve seven former employees and several former students as well.

At the same time, the Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, the Episcopal bishop of Rhode Island, issued a statement in which he requested “appropriate disciplinary proceedings” against “two Episcopal priests and a third person who has worked in Episcopal congregations.” One of the priests committed abuse, he wrote, while the other allegedly failed to report allegations of abuse as required by Rhode Island law.

Return to top