Camp notified families about counselor’s arrest
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The director of a Vermont summer camp says there have been no misconduct allegations there involving a longtime counselor who recently pleaded guilty sexual assaulting a 14-year-old student in New Hampshire.
Kristie Torbick, 39, was sentenced last month to up to 5 years in prison for the assault involving a student at Exeter High School, where she worked as a guidance counselor since 2016. She also was a longtime counselor at a camp for children with cancer in South Hero, Vermont. Torbick attended Camp Ta-Kum-Ta after her own diagnosis as a child and later joined the volunteer staff.
Hattie Johnson, the camp’s executive director, said the camp notified all of its families of Torbick’s arrest in February 2017.
“There was no allegation that any criminal activity involved Camp Ta-Kum-Ta,” she said. “The camp, including its employees and directors, did not participate in the court proceeding nor provide or authorize any letters of support on her behalf.”
She said any volunteers, former or current, who made statements regarding Torbick did so themselves.
Nearly two dozen people wrote letters of support, including lawyers, psychologists, Plymouth State University professors and high school guidance counselors. Facing outrage from parents and victim advocates, the school superintendent in Bedford, where Torbick used to work, has since resigned over his decision to allow employees to publicly support her. A Newfound Area School District counselor who wrote a letter also resigned and a Plymouth State professor who called the student a “pursuer” isn’t being re-hired.
Johnson did not respond to a question about which, if any, of the camp volunteers who supported Torbick remain on the staff or if any action has been taken regarding them. In their letters, several of Torbick’s fellow volunteers at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta said they would welcome her return.
“Although I know it is now impossible, I would not hesitate for a moment to welcome her back to camp in her capacity as a cabin counselor; she was a treasure,” wrote Charlie Buttrey, an attorney who has volunteered at the camp since 2007. Buttrey did not respond to an interview request, but in his letter said he had dozens of conversations with Torbick about her criminal case. Torbick never denied or minimized her conduct, or blamed anyone else, he wrote.
“Kristie is a gem,” he said.
Crystal Barry met Torbick as a camper and later volunteered with her. She said Torbick has grieved for her mistakes.
“I believe both professionally and personally Kristie is completely safe and will continue to be an asset to any community she is part of,” she wrote.
Robin Osborne, a Vermont therapist, said Torbick had the traits the camp sought in its staff as early as age 7. She said that she and other counselors would ask each other “Why can’t they all be like Kristie?”
“Camp will not be the same place without her and Kristie will not be the same person without her camp family,” she wrote. “I can only hope that all of this will be over and Kristie will again bring her expertise, her leadership, her character and her love back to camp next year.”
In arguing unsuccessfully for a 5- to 10-year sentence, prosecutor Patricia Conway said Torbick abused, and then tried to silence, a vulnerable student.
“Kristie Torbick betrayed her position of trust within the community as a guidance counselor by perpetrating horrible crimes against a young victim,” she said.