Prep school says relationship crown violated rules, not law
By HOLLY RAMER
Jul. 17, 2017
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Male prep school students who recorded relationships with girls on a cardboard crown this spring violated campus rules but not the law, the head of the school said Monday.
The crown incident at St. Paul's School was among those cited by the state attorney general's office last week when it began an investigation into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct there. The investigation also was prompted by information about a student sexual conquest ritual called the Senior Salute, revealed during a recent graduate's 2015 trial and the school's recent release of a report about teachers sexually assaulting students years ago.
In a letter to parents, students and school personnel on Monday, Rector Michael Hirschfeld said the school hired an investigator in May after a student reported a possible sexual competition.
The investigation, which was completed last week, found that five boys violated a school rule by using the crown to document their relationships with girls. The boys listed their own names and were neither competing with each other nor soliciting sexual relationships to be listed, Hirschfeld said, and the investigator found no violations of state law.
Current students have been disciplined, he said.
"While we recognize our community is not immune to the pressure adolescents face in today's world, it is our shared belief that our community and our values do not tolerate disrespectful behavior of any kind," he wrote.
The director of public affairs at the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Amanda Grady Sexton, criticized the school for relying on a private investigator.
"Under no circumstances should schools be launching their own investigations into suspected child abuse or criminal activity, and we hope that this practice has come to an end at St. Paul's School," she said.
School officials have said they're cooperating with the attorney general's investigation, which is focused on whether the school engaged in conduct that endangered the welfare of a child. Authorities also are looking into whether the school violated a law that prohibits obstructing criminal investigations.
The spotlight first fell on St. Paul's when new graduate Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, was charged with sexually assaulting a freshman girl as part of Senior Salute, a tradition in which seniors seek out younger students as sexual conquests.
Labrie was acquitted in 2015 of raping a 15-year-old girl but was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault, child endangerment and using a computer to lure the girl for sex, a felony that requires him to register as a sex offender for life. Although sentenced to a year in jail, the 21-year-old Labrie has remained free under curfew while he appeals his convictions. He was 18 at the time of the assault.
The report released in May detailed sexual misconduct at the school spanning decades. It found credible allegations against 13 former faculty and staff along with evidence the school failed to either protect students or fully investigate their complaints when asked 17 years ago. The school has denied it has a culture of sexual abuse but has enacted measures to address the issue.