Report details decades of sexual abuse at prestigious East Coast boarding school

HARTFORD, CT — The prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall released a report that states former faculty and staff members at the school engaged in sexual misconduct with students beginning in the 1960s.

The report named 12 adults who were affiliated with the school who engaged in sexual misconduct with students that consisted of intimate kissing, sexual intercourse and forced or coerced intercourse.

The school said the report focuses on instances of sexual misconduct by Choate faculty and staff members that is inconsistant with the school’s policies dating back to the 1970s, which explicitly forbid “sexual relationships or deep emotional attachments” with students.

The school added, “We have interpreted the term “sexual misconduct” broadly and use that term in our report to include a range of inappropriate behaviors. We recognize that other terms, like “sexual abuse,” “sexual harassment,” or “rape,” might also be appropriate in describing certain incidents discussed in our report.”

The school said they did not investigate reports of student-on-student sexual misconduct, which were outside the scope of our mandate.

The full report can be found here (pdf).

The school issued a letter to alumni Thursday:

“Dear Members of the Choate Rosemary Hall Community,

We have been writing to our school community since 2014 on the topic of adult sexual misconduct in schools, prompted by the alarming increase in reports from schools on this difficult issue. Starting in 2014 and continuing through 2016, we requested information from alumni about any improper adult behavior they experienced while at Choate.

Independent of these efforts, an alumna from the Class of 1992, Cheyenne Montgomery, reported deeply troubling information concerning faculty sexual misconduct she was subjected to while a student. Ms. Montgomery’s courage to come forward caused Choate to pursue a reexamination of its past and confront an extraordinarily painful subject.

In our October letter, we committed to take care of our alumni and to ensure the safest possible environment for our school community now and in the future. The goals we announced-and related action items-built on the longstanding priority of the School to cultivate a safe and respectful campus culture based on our enduring values of integrity, respect, and compassion. We shared our comprehensive plan in October confident that it would help Choate move forward with a better understanding of our past and greater insight for our future.

The centerpiece of Choate’s plan was to conduct an independent investigation into reports of adult sexual misconduct in the history of Choate Rosemary Hall, the Choate School, and Rosemary Hall. The School retained Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling LLP, a former federal prosecutor, to conduct an investigation of such reports. Perhaps most important, we asked you to share your experiences with Ms. Kestenbaum and her team so that we could learn as much as possible about historic instances of misconduct.

A Summary of Ms. Kestenbaum’s Key Findings

Today, Ms. Kestenbaum presented her report to the Board of Trustees, which is available in full here. The report describes numerous instances of adult sexual misconduct in Choate’s history and includes the deeply disturbing experiences of 24 survivors.

The report names 12 adults previously affiliated with Choate who engaged in sexual misconduct with students between 1963 and 2010: John Joseph, William (Bill) Maillet, Kenneth Mills, Frederic (Rick) Lyman, Watson (Chip) Lowery, Adam Hardej, Jean-Marc Dautrey, Angus Mairs, Bjorn Runquist, William (Bill) Cobbett, Jaime Rivera-Murillo, and Charles (Chuck) Timlin.

The detailed content of this report is devastating to read. 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.

Ms. Kestenbaum’s report notes that in some circumstances, Choate acted swiftly and decisively in response to reports of sexual misconduct, but in others it did not.

On behalf of Choate Rosemary Hall, we profoundly apologize.

We honor and thank the survivors of sexual misconduct who came forward. We extend our deepest apologies most specifically to all survivors of sexual misconduct and their loved ones.

How the Investigation Was Conducted

Ms. Kestenbaum had complete authority to conduct her investigation and to take any investigatory steps she deemed warranted. She had full access to Choate’s records as well as current and former personnel to support her investigation. Over the course of seven months, she conducted interviews with 101 individuals, including alumni and former and current faculty, staff, and trustees. She and her team reviewed more than 23,000 pages of documents. Ms. Kestenbaum employed her own criteria for corroborating reports of abuse and naming individuals in her report. We are grateful to the many members of the Choate community who spoke with her. We also thank Ms. Kestenbaum for her work.

Guiding Principles

With Ms. Kestenbaum’s help, we have taken a large step forward in understanding the School’s past, as deeply disturbing as that step has been. We have provided Ms. Kestenbaum’s report to you because schools should be guided by the core academic principles of rigor, transparency, honesty, and inclusion. It therefore follows that in a healthy academic community, all voices need an opportunity to be heard. We hope that the brave members of our community who spoke to Ms. Kestenbaum and her team recognize the major contribution they have made to the ongoing learning, growth, and evolution of our School. We hope that by following these principles, our community can come together in the wake of this painful history and move forward together.

Resources to Support Survivors of Adult Sexual Misconduct

Choate is deeply committed to caring for our alumni who were subject to adult sexual misconduct while students at Choate. We also recognize that there are some for whom this report may cause additional stress and anxiety due to past adult transgressions while at the School. As mentioned in our October letter, Choate has established an independent therapy fund to assist alumni who experienced adult sexual misconduct at Choate in two ways: first, it offers access to immediate crisis counseling; second, it provides a fund to help pay for current therapy needs.

This independent therapy fund is accessible through RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), one of the country’s leading providers of sexual assault prevention and response services. Alumni who wish to learn more can call RAINN’s Choate-specific confidential line at (888) 227-0498.

Review of Choate’s Policies and Practices

One of the key lessons from Choate’s work has been to understand the power of improving standards to prevent adult sexual misconduct and to care for survivors. To that end, Choate has retained RAINN to review Choate’s existing policies and practices regarding sexual misconduct. RAINN’s experts spent five full days on campus, met with school leadership and other constituents, and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents. They built on Choate’s work over the past years to develop responsive policies for survivor support in sensitive matters related to sexual misconduct.

RAINN has noted the strength of Choate’s current confidentiality, amnesty, retaliation, and mandatory reporting policies; progressive training and education for students; and faculty and staff who are caring, empathetic, and supportive while preventing and responding to sexual misconduct on campus. Their recommendations call for continued codification of policies and procedures for reporting and investigating incidents, further review and refinement of adjudication processes, and additional training for faculty and staff who respond to incidents of sexual misconduct. We believe a commitment to constantly improving standards will provide more understanding and protection for our students.

Reporting Resource

Now that Ms. Kestenbaum’s investigation is complete, Associate Headmaster Kathleen Lyons Wallace will again become the school leader responsible for receiving and addressing reports of sexual misconduct. She is available at klw@choate.edu or (203) 697-2496 to anyone who wishes to make such a report.

Conclusion

We hope that through this report, our community can address the issue of adult sexual misconduct in a frank and direct manner. Throughout this self-examination, our goal has been to come together as a community to provide validation and support to those who suffered from abuse, to learn from the past, and to live up to the core standards outlined in Choate’s Statement of Expectations.

At this time, we again offer our deepest apologies to the survivors of adult sexual misconduct. We pledge to take ongoing steps to be at the forefront of the highest possible standard of care in preventing and addressing sexual misconduct at Choate consistent with our unwavering commitment to maintaining a safe community for those who are on campus now and for those still to come.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Carr ’76

Chair, Board of Trustees

Alex Curtis

Headmaster”