Investigation Details Widespread Abuse at Rhode Island Boarding School

Investigation found that at least 1 in 5 girls who attended St. George's in 1970s was abused by an athletic trainer

An independent investigator looking at sexual abuse at the elite Rhode Island boarding school St. George's issued a report Thursday documenting widespread abuse there in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Among the findings is that at least one in five girls who attended the school in the 1970s was abused by athletic trainer Al Gibbs. It also found 10 school employees sexually abused at least 51 students in the 1970s and 1980s, and at least 10 students were abused by fellow students. 

"In the 1970s and 1980s, St. George's School betrayed the trust of the many St. George's students who became the targets of sexual abuse when they came to the school, and likewise betrayed the trust of parents who sent those students to St. George's with the expectation that it would be a safe place for them to live and learn," according to the report by Boston lawyer Martin Murphy. 

Murphy was hired in January by the school and the survivors' group SGS for Healing. 

Gibbs was fired in 1980 after being caught taking photographs of a naked girl in his office, but the report found that he was paid a $1,200 annual grant for "distinguished service" that continued until he died in 1996. The school acknowledged in December that he abused 17 students, but the report said that number was at least 31. 

Another teacher received a recommendation from the dean of the faculty despite his firing in 1988 for inappropriate sexual contact with a student, the report said. 

The report also suggested that the school's current headmaster did not appropriately handle reports of sexual misconduct by a teacher in 2004 and should have fired him rather than put him on leave. It also criticized the current board of trustees for "victim shaming" by issuing a statement earlier this year that cast doubt on the credibility of a student who accused the teacher of molestation. 

Attorney Eric MacLeish, a St. George's alumnus who represented dozens of victims at the school, called the report the most comprehensive recounting to date of sexual abuse at an American boarding school. 

State police previously conducted their own investigation and said they wouldn't bring charges for a variety of reasons, including the statute of limitations and changes in the laws since some of the abuse occurred.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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