St. Paul’s Hit with Another Sexual Assault Lawsuit
St. Paul’s school, a boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire, has been hit more allegations of failing to protect students from sexual misconduct. This time, a student filed a lawsuit alleging the institution violated her civil rights by failing to protect her from sexual assault in a “hypersexualized environment” where older students scored points for having sex with younger ones. The filing claims further that officials failed to report the assault during the 2012-13 school year, and that the student was forced to leave campus altogether following episodes of bullying and retaliation.
The president of the school’s board of trustees, Archibald Cox, said the school plans to cooperate with authorities and the state attorney general to take a closer look into the matter. “We take these allegations very seriously, but do not know whether they are accurate or not,” Cox said. “In my experience, this administration has taken all reporting obligations seriously and has fulfilled them.”
The student, who is referred to only as “Jane Doe” in court documents was 13 years old when she enrolled in St. Paul’s back in 2012. She now lives in Maryland.
The filing states, “From the time she arrived on campus, Ms. Doe experienced unwelcome sexual advances from some male students who were emboldened by formal and informal ‘tradition’ at the school. Unbeknownst to Ms. Doe, older boys started to sexually target her the moment she set foot on campus.” And, it goes on to allege that administrators failed to report, investigate, or address the events even after the girl came forward and provided a detailed report of the assault to state or local authorities. She is demanding a trial and seeking damages for severe emotional distress.
Chessy Prout was a 15-year-old freshman at St. Paul’s in 2014 when she accused 18-year-old former student Owen Labrie of assaulting her as part of “Senior Salute.” Prout, now 19, indicated her choice to stand up to herself meant “standing up against a 162-year-old institution with a secret history of rape and cover-up.” She went on to write a book titled I Have The Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope. The memoir recounts her journey and “takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators.”
The academy said it could not have possibly prevented Prout’s assault and denied it had a culture of sexual assault. However, following the case, Cox acknowledged that some needed positive changes were made on campus. He responded, “Despite the difficulties presented by legal issues and their portrayal in the media, the school continues to thrive. We continue to admire Ms. Prout’s courage and commend her efforts surrounding sexual assault prevention.”
Earlier this month, two alumni from the 1970s also filed allegations that they were sexually assaulted as students at St. Paul’s by former faculty members. Cox said the school was “truly sorry” for their pain “and for any failure of the school to protect them.”