Elite Rhode Island Boarding School Working to Settle With Alumni Over Sexual Abuse

An attorney representing people who say they were abused at St. George's School said the school hopes to begin settlement discussions in June

St George School

An elite boarding school where dozens of alumni say they were sexually abused by staff and fellow students is negotiating possible settlements with lawyers for more than 30 of those victims, according to an email obtained by The Associated Press.

The news comes as several boarding schools across New England are facing pressure to reckon with sexual abuse allegations dating back decades.

Carmen Durso, an attorney representing people who say they were abused at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, wrote in an email to clients on Friday that St. George's wants to start individual settlement discussions in June. If agreements can be reached, he says he expects most claims could be resolved by the end of June. He wrote that the school has asked for accusers to reveal their compensation demands.

"It is still premature to know whether this process will result in successful resolution of your claim," he said.

Durso and attorney Eric MacLeish say they are aware of around 50 people who report having been abused at the school.

A school spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, and Durso would not comment in more detail Monday.

"We're really not going to talk about it, because we've agreed that the only way we're going to have fruitful negotiations is if we keep them confidential while they're going on," Durso said.

He added they are hopeful they will reach settlements.

"We are not big about exercises in futility," he said.

Still, some accusers told the AP on Monday that they're not sure they want to settle. Katie Wales Lovkay, who said she was abused by athletic trainer Al Gibbs, said she wants to see the school own up to what happened. Otherwise, she said: "It's just payoff money. It's blood money. They're not going to pay me off."

St. George's has an endowment of more than $140 million, with tuition of $58,000 per year.

Rhode Island state police are wrapping up an investigation into allegations against several staff members and students. The accusations stretch as far back as decades and as recently as the 2000s, under current headmaster Eric Peterson. An independent investigator hired following an agreement between St. George's and a group representing accusers has interviewed dozens of former students and is expected to finish his work in June.

On Sunday, The Boston Globe reported that an investigation it conducted into hundreds of private schools in New England found more than 200 students and ex-students have come forward since 1991 to say that they were sexually abused or harassed at 67 schools since the 1950s.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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