Two students have come forward with sexual abuse allegations against faculty and staff at The Hotchkiss School. One student’s trial will moved forward, judge orders.
A trial regarding alleged sexual abuse of a 14-year-old freshman at the Hotchkiss School in Salibsury is cleared for trial. The alleged victim claims he was molested multiple times in the mid-1980s, as well as drugged and raped by a dorm proctor and faux athletic trainer. He said the school ignored his attempts to report the abuse in order to protect its reputation.
The former student alleges he was raped by Roy G. Smith Jr., known as “Uncle Roy,” who was employed at the school for more than 17 years. He says he was also the victim of ritualized hazing.
U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden, nominated to his post by former President Barack Obama, rejected a request by the Salibsury school’s attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling a jury should ensue. Bolden disagreed with the school’s attorneys that Hotchkiss had no duty to protect the student, identified as “John Doe” in the lawsuit, or any student entering the school.
“Here, any number of Hotchkiss’ actions could have led to an increased likelihood of sexual misconduct by proctors and teachers,” Bolden wrote in his 34-page ruling. He indicated at the time the school “did not have formal rules, training and procedures related to sexual misconduct between teachers and students. The court finds, therefore, that a reasonable jury could determine that Hotchkiss could be liable for an increased risk of sexual misconduct.” He stated further, Hotchkiss “had an affirmative duty to protect and warn John Doe from harms that the school should have reasonably anticipated.”
Hotchkiss hired a law firm that defended the Catholic church against allegations of abuse by priests. Doe’s lawyers, Annika K. Martin and Wendy Fleishman, “presented evidence that Hotchkiss was aware of instances of sexual abuse at the school in the years preceding his enrollment and while he attended the school,” Bolden wrote, adding, “Hotchkiss staff, however, were not receptive to teachers reporting sexual assault of students by teachers. As an institution, Hotchkiss arguably failed to comply with state reporting requirements and investigate allegations of sexual abuse when they were reported. In fact, Hotchkiss did not implement sexual abuse policies until the late 1990s.”
In 2016, Hotchkiss School issued an alumni report noting that “the school was coming to grips with past child sexual abuse on campus and was hiring an independent investigator to uncover additional details.” Then, in 2018, Bolden ordered Hotchkiss to turn over some of the documents collected by the school’s former sexual misconduct investigator during the course of the investigation.
In October 2018, a second former Hotchkiss student filed a lawsuit alleging that Smith had drugged and sexually assaulted him as well, “following a period of blatant grooming during which Smith inappropriately touched the 15-year-old student even as Smith was the subject of other complaints about sexual abuse of children,” according to the lawsuit. The accounts provided by the two male students were eerily similar. There is no word yet on whether an abuse trial will be approved for this case.
When it was in receipt of the findings, The Hotchkiss School issued a statement saying the institution “takes seriously its commitment to student safety and well-being. We look to engage our students throughout the year in continual, developmentally appropriate discussions about sound decision-making, sexual health and healthy relationships, and creating an environment of safety and respect…Hotchkiss also has in place numerous policies and programs designed to ensure student safety and well-being that were developed and implemented in consultation with independent professionals and reviewed by third-party experts.”