Rape Case Puts Focus on Culture of Elite St. Paul’s School

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UPDATE: Day 2 trial news here

St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school affiliated with the Episcopal Church is in the news for its culture of rape of girls and young women. A practice called “the senior salute” encourages young men to pursue sexual conquest as part of the culture of the school.

New York Times:

The case has already raised uncomfortable questions about the connection between privilege and sexual assault, and between sexual assault in American colleges and in high schools. …

The administration at St. Paul’s School has said little about the case. “Allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people that represent our student body, alumni, faculty and staff,” said a statement posted Monday to the school’s website. School officials declined requests for further comment.

Mr. Labrie, however, did not appear to be a troubled student. When the alleged rape occurred, on May 30, 2014, he was a senior who had already been accepted at Harvard, where he planned to study theology. He was a prefect too, given extra responsibility for helping younger students. Prosecutors said he also relished the gamesmanship of the St. Paul’s Senior Salute. According to an affidavit reviewed by The Associated Press, Mr. Labrie told the police that he was “trying to be No. 1 in the sexual scoring at St. Paul’s School.”

Washington Post:

…Before they graduate, senior men at St. Paul’s competed to sleep with as many younger students as possible. “Score” was kept in permanent marker on a wall behind the washing machines, then, after the school kept painting over it, in an online forum.

Labrie was “trying to be number one,” he acknowledged to police.

This week, Labrie will stand trial for several felonies, including sexual assault and use of a computer to lure the girl to him, the Concord Monitor reported. But the case is also expected to cast a harsh light on the campus culture at St. Paul’s, where, according to an affidavit cited by the Monitor, administrators have been combating a culture of “sexual scoring.”

 


 

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Randall Stewart
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Randall Stewart

Frankly, heads need to roll. It is impossible to believe that people in positions of power were unaware. Sexual misconduct is an expulsion level offence at any boarding school, and until those responsible are held to account, we need to keep asking questions.

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Paul Woodrum
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Wondered when Café would get around to this story. I first saw it in The Guardian on Monday, then the CBS evening news on Tuesday and now, finally, on Café on Wednesday. Is there any way for a non-moderator to forward a story?

My first reaction to the story was how much the school's response sounded like that of GTS's when the Dean and Trustees threw the faculty under the bus. The second was reflection on the privileges of privilege, none of which enhanced the image of St. Paul's nor the Episcopal Church. Then there are the lives destroyed no matter how soft the landing nor how clever the lawyers.

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Jon White
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Jon White

In the header of the website there is a link to the Submissions page. There you will find details of how to contact us for a story idea or an original work you'd like for us to consider publishing.

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David Allen
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David Allen

We were aware of the story. We shared email behind the scene about the progress of the story.

I for one, was hesitant to do this story, because the comments in this type of story tend to become mired in a lot of negativity. Folks come out of the woodwork to take potshots at their favorite pet peeve or hobby against TEC and things Anglican/Episcopalian. This sort of story takes a lot of energy from a volunteer staff to monitor the comments.

Bro David

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Jenny
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Jenny

I hope his reputation follows him, and ensures that he isn't ever a candidate for the priesthood. I suppose this is a boarding school? A school where the elite dump their children, so that they can "play" and not be bothered to parent.

[Jenny: please sign your last name as well as your first when you comment as per our guidelines. Thanks, editor]

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Steve White
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Steve White

You are making a grievous and erroneous generalization by saying a boarding school is "A school where the elite dump their children, so that they can “play” and not be bothered to parent." First off, most boarding schools offer generous financial aid to students who cannot afford the fees. And many students thrive at boarding schools who would not thrive elsewhere. And every boarding school I know of -- many -- parents are VERY involved. To be sure, boarding schools used to be playgrounds for the rich, but those days are long gone. Indeed, the student involved in the current St. Paul's case was a scholarship student.

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Fr. David Lemburg
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Fr. David Lemburg

St. Paul's school is associated with the Episcopal Church, but it is not the Episcopal Church. Mr. Labrie has brought shame upon the school, the Church, his family, and himself. Rape culture is not a new problem, in society or the Church. However, how members of the school and Church deal with rape culture will determine how God's call to love and care for one another is truth in reality or words in a book.

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

That's a point well taken. But I'm wondering, in practical terms, precisely what that means. What role does the church play in this school?

As for the school itself, I wonder how they view this distinction. Because the second sentence from their welcome page begins with this quote: "We are an Episcopal school".

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Jay Croft
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Jay Croft

HONOR CODE
To live honorably, we as members of the St. Paul’s community strive to be truthful, respectful, and kind.

Seems that this "honor code" wasn't taken very seriously.

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

Yes, the honor code wasn't taken seriously. But by whom?

The most troubling part of this piece, at least to me, is the reflexive, knee-jerk reaction to protect the institution.

"The administration at St. Paul’s School has said little about the case. “Allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people that represent our student body, alumni, faculty and staff,” said a statement posted Monday to the school’s website. School officials declined requests for further comment."

This fits an all to familiar pattern. A pattern that the Episcopal Church has honed with extraordinary expertise. In the face of outrageous wrong-doing, this reflexive instinct to circle the wagons, remain quiet, and protect the institution (and of course those in power), at all costs.

The question that begs to be asked, and the question even if it is asked you know will not receive an answer, is what did you believe was happening within your culture when you were repeatedly painting over this scorecard behind the washing machines?

Was this not a clue that something was seriously wrong within this culture? Does this not speak to the culture?

I wonder how long it will be before St. Paul's sees the need to hire an outside consultant to handle the crisis management and fallout from this. Perhaps the same consultant that the Maryland Diocese hired after the Heather Cook incident- to go out and do battle for them in the court of public opinion. Who knows?

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Paul Powers
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Paul Powers

The school's administration may have said little to the press about the case, but in the past year, the rector has sent 9 messages to students, parents, and alumni about it, all of which are posted on the school's website.
http://www.sps.edu/Rector?rc=0

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

Paul, first of all, my thanks for posting that link. I've visited the SPS website several times, and I hadn't noticed that link. Some of those announcements I've already seen in the media, and at least one of them was recently posted to the SPS Facebook page.

My opinion of most of those releases is that they are troubling.

For starters, three of those releases, or one third of them, are specifically designed to discourage students, alumni, faculty, and staff from having any communication with the press.

Most recently, dated August 18, 2015 and directed exclusively at Alumni, is this:

"I am also extending the School’s resources to you in the event you are contacted by the media. Any media inquiries may be directed to Sarah Aldag, our director of communications, at 603-229-4676 or saldag@sps.edu."

A similar message was sent to students on August 1, 2014. This message was sent to students prior to their return to campus.

Most troubling of all, in my opinion, is the message sent to students and parents dated August 17th of this year, a quote from which is:

"It’s unfortunate, but not surprising, to hear that some reporters are trying to secure comments from SPS students. Sarah Aldag, our director of communications, can be reached at 603-229-4676 or saldag@sps.edu if you have questions or concerns about how to handle media inquiries."

And the question I have to ask myself is why is this unfortunate? And precisely who is this unfortunate for?

Certainly, SPS has not been forthcoming regarding this case. So this begs the question as to why Hirschfeld feels that inquiries made by an independent press- inquiries that are attempting to reveal the circumstances of this case, and discover the nature of the culture of this institution, are "unfortunate".

Frankly, I don't see anything "unfortunate" about this at all. If there is any misfortune that could potentially result from these inquiries, I suspect that misfortune would fall upon Hirschfeld and the institution.

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