The parents of a teenage girl sexually assaulted at St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school in New Hampshire, are suing the school arguing that it facilitated a “warped culture of sexual misconduct.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, argues that the school is accountable for the 2014 sexual assault of a then 15-year-old student. Owen Labrie, a former St. Paul’s student, was accused of sexually assaulting the girl during the boarding school’s “Senior Salute,” an unofficial tradition in which senior boys try to take the virginity of younger girls, earning points for every girl they “score.” In August 2015, the Associated Press reported that Labrie, along with a number of his male classmates, was a competitive participant in the “Senior Salute,” and vying “to be number one.”
Labrie was charged with rape and three lesser charges. During his trial, numerous St. Paul’s students recounted the tradition, which included keeping score in one of the school’s laundry rooms. In October 2015, Labrie was convicted of felony child luring and misdemeanor sexual assault and misdemeanor child endangerment. He was sentenced to one year in jail, though after a short stint there for violating his bail, is currently out and awaiting his appeal.
The lawsuit filed by the girl’s parents alleges that St. Paul’s was “fostering, permitting and condoning a tradition of ritualized statutory rape,” by ignoring the “Senior Salute.” WSJ reports:
The lawsuit alleges that the concept of “scoring”—with older students “tracking their sexual conquests of young girls—has long been part of [St. Paul’s] ethos” and that the school failed to put a halt to it.
St. Paul’s “had children boarding with them and as such, they assume the role of parents,” Steven J. Kelly, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said by phone Wednesday. “They knew that the children under their care were threatened by this senior salute, by pervasive games of sexual conquest, and they did nothing to stop it.”
The issue of what role St. Paul’s played in creating an atmosphere that allowed this to occur was explored in a lengthy and flawed Vanity Fair piece by alum Todd S. Purdum in March. The school has responded to the lawsuit, unsurprisingly arguing that it is “without merit.”
“[We] plan to vigorously defend ourselves. We categorically reject any allegations that St. Paul’s School has an unhealthy culture. The safety of our students has been and will continue to be the highest priority for our School.”
The lawsuit is not asking for monetary damages, but rather requests that St. Paul’s work to keep the school safe (the girl’s father is an alumnus of the school). The girl is no longer a student at St. Paul’s; according to the family’s lawyer, she returned after Labrie’s trial, but left after being “intimidated” and “retaliated against.”
Image via AP.