St. George’s School/Flickr

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

St. George’s School, an Episcopal boarding school in Middletown, Rhode Island, announced on Aug. 3 a settlement agreement with 30 graduates who said they had been sexually abused during their time as students.

A mediator will determine how much compensation each person will receive as part of the agreement. Both sides said the agreement represents progress in a difficult healing process from incidents dating as far back as the 1970s.

“It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to receive this kind of validation and support, after all these years,” said survivor representative Anne Scott in a statement. “Our spirits are renewed on our forward healing journey.”

Leslie Heaney, chair of St. George’s board of trustees, did not say how much the school would pay in total settlement costs. Victims’ attorney Roderick MacLeish, a class of 1970 alumnus of St. George’s, said his clients faced no gag order but opted not to discuss financial terms.

“As one victim told me, it would be the equivalent of talking about their salary,” MacLeish said via email.

“It is our sincere hope that this agreed resolution will assist our survivors as they move forward towards healing,” Heaney said in a statement.

As the scandal came to light last fall, St. George’s administrators said allegations centered on the conduct of three individuals in the 1970s and 80s. Plaintiffs’ attorneys disputed that figure, saying the number was at least five. They faulted the school for letting the accused leave quietly, in some cases taking jobs at other institutions without facing prosecution or other repercussions.

According to plaintiffs’ attorneys, more than a dozen alumnae said they were sexually molested and assaulted by a former athletic trainer who retired from St. George’s in 1980. Attorneys said their clients experienced a pattern of being coerced into silence.

A St. George’s representative declined to comment beyond Wednesday’s statement on the settlement.

Attorneys also accused St. George’s employees of violating Rhode Island’s mandatory reporting law after learning of the allegations. MacLeish said the settlement sends a message to those who suffered psychologically from the abuse.

“While no amount of money can make victims whole, today’s settlement says to survivors: ‘This was not your fault, it affected your life in profound ways, it happened at our school, and we are truly sorry for what you have lost,’” MacLeish said in a statement.

Thus far, healing from this trying episode has been an elusive goal for the private high school on the Rhode Island coast. The school was forced to cancel a planned healing service in conjunction with a homecoming weekend in May amid growing protests. Angry graduates insisted that any declarations of healing were premature and chastised their alma mater for trying to move on too quickly.

Earlier this year, the Rhode Island State Police investigated criminal assault claims against seven former St. George’s employees but dropped the investigation in June without filing any charges. Among the factors was a statute of limitations that barred prosecution of decades-old crimes.

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