More than 40 former students of St. George’s School, a prestigious boarding school in Rhode Island, have come forward with claims of sexual abuse that occurred mostly during the 1970s and 1980s. After being contacted by school officials, police began an investigation in November. On Tuesday, a press conference was held by four of the alleged victims and their lawyers in which school officials were accused of covering up the abuse and imposing gag orders on students. “Officials were not reporting claims from students but instead, imposing gag orders on those victims,” Attorney Eric MacLeish told People. “There are prosecutable crimes that occurred here and I expect more victims will be coming forward.”
In December, the school released a report detailing its own investigation into the allegations, which stated it received 26 accounts “strongly suggesting that three former employees of the School engaged in sexual misconduct with regard to multiple students, and that there were twenty-three victims of sexual misconduct by these three employees.” According to CNN, the school did not report the incidents to authorities at the time. “To all victims, we are truly, deeply sorry for the harm done to you by former employees or former students of the School,” the report reads. “We are heartbroken for you and for the pain and suffering that you have endured.” The school has set up a fund for victims to receive therapy and other treatment.
During the conference, former student Katie Wales described how a school official did nothing after she reported Al Gibbs, an athletic trainer who was employed by the school from 1973 to 1980, had molested her and took a nude photo of her. “He looked at me and he said, ‘You are just a distraught young lady, you are mentally unstable,’ and didn’t believe me and proceeded to completely ignore what I told him,” Wales said about the official. “And I think that’s what upset me more than anything else, was the fact that he didn’t believe me and it still happened to other girls after me. Nothing was done.”
Gibbs was fired only after a male student saw him photographing a nude female student. He passed away in 1996, but four former staff members of the seven total alleged perpetrators are still alive. The New York Times reports that two of them appear to be working in settings with young people.
Some of the victims are calling for the resignation of Eric Peterson, the school’s current headmaster, because he has been part of the problem. “Eric Peterson has been covering this up since 2004, my issue as well as others,” former student and alleged victim, Harry Groome, had said.
“There’s no explanation, quite frankly, for an environment like St. George’s School, which allowed these predators dressed up like sheep to prey like wolves on children at the school,” said MacLeish.
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