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St. Andrew’s School Boca Raton – mishandling of sex misconduct charges

St. Andrew’s School Boca Raton – mishandling of sex misconduct charges

St. Andrew’s School Boca Raton is a member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools. In May it terminated the head of school and  hired a law firm to investigate possible sex abuse. The investigation has now been completed. In addition, the Palm Beach Post has uncovered another mishandled sex abuse case. So far, the dean of students has been terminated as a result of the two cases.

Sun-Sentinel, August 24:

Boca Raton police are taking a fresh look at a 2014 student-fondling case in which St. Andrew’s School officials allegedly knew of a sex crime on campus and failed to report it, an agency spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Police plan to look into why the department didn’t fully explore the school’s lack of reporting two years ago. “We’re going to look into it further to find out why it wasn’t addressed at that time,” Boca police spokeswoman Officer Sandra Boonenberg said.

Maria Schneider, a Broward assistant state attorney who has overseen juvenile prosecutions, said any kind of sexual misconduct involving a minor should be reported to police.

“If there’s sexual contact, that’s a felony,” said Schneider, who is not involved in the Boca Raton case. “I don’t know of any school that has a policy where they don’t report felonies. If they knew and didn’t report it, shame on them.”

Palm Beach Post, August 20:

The scathing report, released to parents Friday after months of rumors and turmoil, lambastes the school for failing repeatedly last year to investigate “significant evidence” of misconduct by the teacher with three teenage students.

The former teacher has not been charged with any crime, and the report says that the school’s flawed investigation found no evidence of sexual misconduct. But it concludes that the Boca Raton Episcopal school failed to comply with a state law requiring that it report its concerns immediately to child-welfare investigators.

Rather than contact legal authorities, school administrators with no relevant training undertook their own investigation, the report says. They then ended it after one student, who admitted to spending four nights sleeping in the teacher’s on-campus apartment, denied he and the teacher had sexual contact.

The report, authored by New Hampshire attorney David Wolowitz at the school’s request, comes three months after the school’s explosive admission in May that it had hired a law firm to investigate possible sexual abuse.

Sun-Sentinel, August 23:

A Boca Raton police report, obtained by the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday, identifies Christopher W. Waite, 41, as the “dorm parent” who was accused of engaging in “overly-friendly relationships” with boys enrolled at the private school, located at 3900 Jog Road.

Police found no evidence of any crime, and Waite is not facing charges.

The school signed a severance agreement that gave Waite two months’ severance pay and up to $5,000 in moving expenses. The faculty contract had called for no severance if terminated for cause. The school also agreed that records would show Waite had left for “personal reasons” and the school would provide a neutral reference to potential future employers.

Palm Beach Post, August 24:

The school interviewed the student but never notified police or child-welfare investigators, despite a state law that calls for schools to report suspicions of sexual abuse against minors, police records obtained by The Palm Beach Post show.

Instead, the Boca Raton private school conducted its own investigation, which administrators resolved by sending the girl to counseling sessions and writing a stern email to her 18-year-old attacker, who had graduated days earlier and returned to his home in Russia, police records show.

Police were not alerted until more than a month after the incident, when the girl and her mother went to the Boca Raton Police Department to report the incident themselves. After a four-month investigation, detectives moved to charge Oleg Novikov with lewd and lascivious molestation. He was eventually arrested on a felony battery charge, court records show, though the charge was dropped after he wrote a letter of apology admitting he fondled her and agreed to perform 50 hours of community service.

Palm Beach Post, August 26:

Andy Mulligan, a longtime employee and former St. Andrew’s student himself, was terminated this week as the school grapples with the fallout from the two cases, which have rocked the campus and fiercely divided parents and faculty.

His firing came after The Palm Beach Post reported Wednesday that he was one of the administrators who knew of the sexual assault of a 15-year-old student on campus in 2014 but failed to alert law enforcement or state child-welfare officials, his attorney, Bill Cornwell, confirmed.

Cornwell called his removal an unfair attempt by St. Andrew’s board of trustees to cast blame on individual administrators for what was really a systemic problem at the school, which he said had unclear protocols about who should alert authorities about sexual abuse concerns and when.

Emphasis added.

Cornwell is a long-time employee of the school whose service overlapped with the former long-time head of school, the Rev. George Andrews. Andrews has been under investigation by civil and ecclesiastical authorities  for failure to report child sex abuse at St. George’s Episcopal School. “In addition to serving on the Governing Board of the National Association of Episcopal Schools from 1992-2000 (as Vice President from 1995-1996 and President from 1996-2000), he was the recipient of the Ruth Jenkins Award for Outstanding Service to NAES in 2004.”

There is a petition for the change of leadership of the school’s board of trustees. The petitioners appear to object to the board’s decision to launch an independent investigation into sex abuse allegations.

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