Eleven individuals who were once on the staff of prep school Phillips Exeter Academy have been charged with sexual misconduct with students including forced kissing and fondling. The alleged behavior occurred over multiple decades. The New York Post reports that administration officials were aware of some of the incidents and failed to act on complaints or never even recorded the complaints in many cases. This failure allowed some of the perpetrators to move on to positions at other institutions, with their actions remaining hidden from officials at those institutions. All of the accused have been fired, left the school for other reasons, or passed away since the misconduct occurred.
The academy issued a statement on Friday in which they acknowledged their failure.
“On the Academy’s behalf, we accept full responsibility for the harm that has been suffered and for the failures of those whose responsibility it was to prevent and address such harm. We recognize the enormous violation of trust and the lasting wounds inflicted and endured.”
The statement was in response to two reports that were released on Friday detailing the allegations. One of those reports revealed that at least one of the accused went on to be employed at a Pennsylvania institution where he was accused of abuse in the 1980s. WMUR reports that a total of 26 cases were uncovered by the Phillips Exeter investigation. There were also 18 cases of students abusing other students. Incidents spanned about 70 years, with some as early as the 1940s and the latest occurring in the 2010s.
Officials at Phillips Exeter Academy, the elite New Hampshire boarding school, apologized Friday to survivors of sexual misconduct for “past failings” at the institution. https://t.co/hGAkwjt34e pic.twitter.com/Cev4fzgJIW
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) August 25, 2018
The steps Phillips Exeter took to conceal the sexual misconduct of its staff members included maintaining two sets of records – one for Human Resources and one that was kept confidential and was seen only by the dean of the faculty or the principal. One of the reports described the academy’s coverup of the abusive behavior.
“Some individuals who experienced different forms of sexual misconduct at various points were not able to seek assistance or, when they sought assistance, were not treated consistently or fairly. Emerging from these systemic deficiencies was a pattern of (Exeter) failing to respond to, investigate, and communicate internally regarding reported misconduct in an effective and appropriate manner and, in certain circumstances, failing to report misconduct to the appropriate authorities.”
One of the accused is 75-year-old assistant admissions officer Arthur Peekel who admitted in 2016 that he had assaulted a prospective student in 1973. Before he made the admission, he left Exeter and moved to Illinois where he took another teaching position. He was named Teacher of the Year in Illinois in 1992. He taught at a high school until 2004. Peekel faced criminal charges in 2016 and was sentenced in 2017 to a suspended sentence of 12 months behind bars, and he was also required to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
Former teacher Rick Schubart resigned in 2011 after admitting to sexual misconduct with multiple students as far back as the 1970s. Steve Lewis, another member of the staff, was fired in 2011 amid charges of sexual interactions with a student decades prior.
Academy faculty members are now required to take annual training sessions about sexual assault and the responsibility to report it. The training is conducted by Exeter police, the Rockingham County Attorney, and HAVEN (a support agency that provides 24/7 trauma support).