To think of an elite boarding school school experience is to immediately conjure the sound of orange leaves crunching beneath your new leather boots, the feeling of your pressed navy blazer hanging gently over your shoulders, raw from cigarette burns from a hazing tradition gone exactly to plan, the smell of decades of institutionalized sexual abuse.
Results of a recent internal investigation at Connecticut boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall found a pattern of sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s, in which at least a dozen teachers (none of whom still work at the school) named in the report abused students without consequences. The report recounts graphically the experiences of 24 survivors.
Most horrific is the complete lack of action on the part of the administration—not a single incident was reported to the police. Instead, they were able to resign, and administrators wrote letters of recommendation on their behalf.
One particularly alarming instance involves a Spanish teacher named Jaime Rivera-Murillo who allegedly raped a 17-year-old girl in a swimming pool while on a school trip to Costa Rica, according to the Boston Globe. Students reportedly told the administration the next morning, and the dean of students flew to Costa Rica to look into it. Rivera-Murillo was fired for “just cause” but later worked at several other schools in the state.
From the New York Times:
Choate said it had been compelled to examine this ugly history in 2013, after two alumni alerted the school to sexual misconduct they had experienced as students, the report said. In 2016, The Boston Globe published an article that described abuse at the school, and shortly thereafter, Choate announced that it had appointed an investigator from the law firm Covington & Burling.
The Boston Globe investigation referenced above painted a reprehensible picture of how sexual misconduct is routinely tolerated—or at least concealed—in prestigious New England private schools, perhaps with the goal of protecting the institutions’ venerated cross-generational reputation from negative headlines. The reporting team identified 31 educators (only one from Choate—others from schools in the area) who, after being reported for some sort of sexual misconduct, went on to work with children in other schools or educational settings. Many of these offenders also received official recommendations from their firing institutions.
Another case in a similar vein is that of Owen Labrie, the former senior at New Hampshire boarding school St. Paul’s who was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault, child endangerment, and using a computer to lure a minor, after forcing a 15-year-old classmate to have sex in pursuit of a tradition called the “Senior Salute.” In jail, Labrie, who is currently seeking a new trial, reportedly had an “epiphany” about his own privilege.
“The detailed content of this report is devastating to read,” read a letter sent from the board of trustees to the school community, according to USA Today. “One can only have the greatest sympathy and deepest concern for the survivors. The conduct of these adults violated the foundation of our community: the sacred trust between students and the adults charged with their care.”