Spreading sex abuse allegations at RI prep school (UPDATED)

Updated 2:51 PM with link and excerpt of Bishop Scanlan’s letter to Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Scroll to UPDATE posted at the end of this post.


There are further developments concerning the sex abuse charges at St. George’s Preparatory School in Rhode Island. (See our initial item yesterday.)  A choir director and clergy person who left St. George’s Preparatory School in Rhode Island went on to full careers in schools and parish ministry, some of which had been contacted by victims. In addition, allegations at St. George’s now extend as late as 2004. And there are allegations of a culture of student male on male rape. The tentacles of the case reach far, as alleged adult perpetrators served in capacities where they could repeat the pattern of abuse, and alleged student perpetrators graduated without consequences.

The Providence Journal reports Episcopal bishop calls for ‘disciplinary proceedings’ in St. George’s School sex abuse case:

Eric MacLeish, legal co-counsel for victims, identified the third person as former headmaster the Rev. George Andrews, who he said did not report suspected abuse in 1988.

“I applaud what the bishop has said and it’s about time somebody stepped up to the plate and urged discipline for those who violated children, and those who did not fulfill mandatory child abuse reporting,” said MacLeish. “There should be discipline. And if there’s not discipline, what does it say about the school community? Why is this coming from the Episcopal bishop and not the board of trustees at St. George’s.”

This morning’s Washington Post reports of a culture of student on student abuse:

Harry Groome was just 14, a newcomer from a small Pennsylvania town, eager to fit in at his tony New England boarding school. His tormentors were seniors, one was even a prefect. They had superior social standing, not to mention numbers and size. So when they told him to keep quiet, he did.

Not that his silence stopped the whole school from knowing what happened to him: The teenage Groome was forced to stand atop a trash can, he told the Boston Globe, pull down his pants and underwear, and bend over while an assailant raped him with a broomstick.

Attacks like the one on Groome were something of an open secret at St. George’s School, the alma mater of Astors and Vanderbilts, the poet Ogden Nash and former senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island and where dozens of alumni say they were sexually abused. According to the Globe, a 1979 yearbook includes a photo of Groome in a trash can, a hockey stick beside him. The caption reads, “It’s better than a broomstick!”

The New York Times reports on the 40 cases of alleged abuse extending from 1974 to 2004.

 The scope of a sexual abuse scandal at St. George’s School in Rhode Island widened substantially on Tuesday as lawyers reported that at least 40 former students had made credible reports of sexual abuse, and in some cases rape, by seven former staff members and four students over three decades.

At the same time, a spokesman for the school, which had made public its own investigation late last month, now characterized that investigation as “preliminary” and said that it would soon name who would be carrying the investigation forward. “The work remains ongoing,” the school said in a statement.

Lawyers for the victims said that the abuse took place from 1974 through 2004. Four of the seven former staff members are still alive, and in at least two cases appear to be working in settings with young people. None have been charged criminally.

The Tampa Bay Times has Former Tampa Prep music teacher linked to sex abuse scandal at Rhode Island prep school:

[Former student] Cramer said he told Tampa Prep officials in 2004 about his allegations against Coleman. But only recently did Cramer learn that Coleman retired from the elite Tampa private school in 2008 — four years after his warning.

Cramer’s accusations against Coleman are part of a much larger scandal engulfing St. George’s School, an Episcopalian prep school in Middletown, R.I. Attorneys representing accusers there said Tuesday more than 40 have contacted them with allegations that they were molested and raped at the school in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the Boston Globe.

St. George’s own investigation has found “multiple credible reports of sexual misconduct at the school, ranging from unprofessional behaviors to outright sexual assault,” according to the Globe. The school said it has found 26 accusers and referred to one of their abusers as “Employee Perpetrator #3.” The school’s report said that employee inappropriately touched students, had “nude encounters” with them and gave them alcohol.

The Globe said attorneys Eric MacLeish and Carmen Durso publicly identified “Employee Perpetrator #3” as Coleman at a news conference Tuesday. He worked at St. George’s until he was fired for misconduct in 1988, the Globe said. He started working at Tampa Prep in August 1997.

Rhode Island Public Radio and other outlets report the clergy person named is the Rev. Howard White now in Pennsylvania.

According to his bio,

The Rev. Dr. Howard W. White, Jr., M. Div., Ed.D. (Ret.) Supply Priest to St. James Bedford.

Dr. White celebrates 50 years of ministry and 8 years of “retirement”. He is a graduate of WVU and Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. He served on the faculty of St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH and St. George’s School, Newport, RI. He was Academic Dean and Chaplain of Chatham Hall, Chatham, Virginia and Headmaster of Asheville Country Day School prior to his election as 20th Rector of Grace Church in the Mountains, Waynesville, NC where he served as Rector for twenty-two years. He retired to Bedford, PA in December of 2007. He celebrates 50 years of ordained ministry on December 21, 2015. He has served 14 Bishops in his ministry. [Links added.]

St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH, (where White served) had its own sex abuse scandal that emerged in 2015. From our post, St. Paul’s School Responds, of September 1, 2015:

The Rector of St Paul’s School, Michael G. Hirschfeld, along with the President of the Board of Trustees, James Waterbury, Jr., has also published a letter to the St Paul’s Community in the wake of the conviction of Owen Labrie for sexual assault. Michael Hirschfeld is the brother of Bishop Robert Hirschfeld.

Many terms, including “senior salute” and “score” that are part of the student vernacular, have been discussed as part of the trial. These terms, and the behaviors they suggest, have and will continue to be addressed by the School community. There is no place for inappropriate and hurtful behavior that disrespects any member of our School. Conduct that is damaging to the fabric of our community and inconsistent with our values has never been – and will not be – tolerated….
During the last 15 months, we have continued to learn much about our School and the students it serves. We have learned that we must do more as a School community, students and adults alike, to support those who stand up for themselves when they feel they have been wronged. Our ongoing work will be even more difficult having witnessed the challenges of the trial, but it remains our responsibility to make our School the safest place possible.
We have been painfully reminded of the fact that social media can provide an adult-free space for negative student culture to form and perpetuate itself. We have learned that what was once termed “dating” or “courting” behavior has been inverted in some instances from our traditional sensibilities – sexual contact is now seen as the point of origin of many relationships, not a part of an emotionally developed relationship. These issues have highlighted some of the differences in educating students in the 21st century.

UPDATE:

You may have read in today’s newspapers that a member of our Central Pennsylvania clergy, the Rev. Dr. Howard White, is among the subjects of an investigation into widespread allegations of sexual abuse during the 1970s and 1980s at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island. The Rev. Dr. Howard White served at the school during this time and is now a retired priest who currently serves as a long-term supply priest at St. James Episcopal Church, Bedford (PA).

St. George’s School recently released the report of its investigation and the Rhode Island State Police are conducting a criminal investigation into episodes discussed in that report. Yesterday, former students of St. George’s named Fr. White as one of the alleged abusers described in the report.

I learned about this situation as it was developing from my colleague, the Rt. Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, who serves as an ex officio member of the board at the school. I have moved to immediately restrict Fr. White’s ministry and to provide for the pastoral care of the congregation that he currently serves.  I have no information that leads me to believe that there have been any incidents of abuse at St. James, Bedford, but it is imperative that we employ all the safeguards that are available to us while the investigation of the Rhode Island State Police continues and while the formal ecclesiastical discipline process involving Fr. White unfolds….

Posted by