In 2017, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office launched a criminal investigation of St. Paul’s School after a string of reports of sexual assault on campus dating back decades. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
Students and staff at St. Paul’s School have made 19 reports of sexual assault and other misconduct since January 2021, according to a report released by the school’s independent compliance overseer last week, with nine reports listed as “active.”
In his latest semi-annual report, the overseer, Donald E. Sullivan, noted that the Concord private school had received one report of coerced underage sex; four reports of sexual assault; six reports of sexual assault that was “non-consensual due to age”; four reports of child abuse or possible child abuse; and two reports of assault or physical abuse, among other reports.
The reports were logged through a recently established reporting system that tallies all incidents, including “academic misconduct, hazing, harassment, bullying, discrimination and microaggressions, sexual assault, or any other incident that may affect the safety and well-being of students,” according to Sullivan’s report.
And it follows similar patterns in earlier reports. A 2020 report from the overseer noted 26 incidents reported by the school, a majority of which were historical, which ranged from contraband in dorm rooms to historical sexual abuse made known by a former student. A 2019 report logged 31 incidents, with about a third occurring that year and on campus.
Among the 19 reports this year, listed in a table in the document, the circumstances varied.
In one “active” case, a student reported an instance of “possible child abuse” against a non-student offender. That alleged behavior took place off campus, the report noted.
In another active case, a staff person at the Clark House, the school’s health center, reported a sexual assault on campus that was non-consensual due to an age gap.
Sometimes, faculty members reported students. Other times, a campus safety officer reported the behavior. In two active cases, a student reported another student for sexual assault due to an age gap.
The list also included a number of “historic” cases – those that were reported after Jan. 18 but that occurred in the past. Seven of those allegations were made against non-students; three reports were made against students or prospective students.
None of the reported behavior tallied in the document cite identifying information.
The reporting system, run by Maxient, a case management software company, was created in the wake of a 2018 settlement agreement reached between the state Attorney General’s Office and the school.
In 2017, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the school after a string of reports of sexual assault on campus dating back decades. That investigation involved a grand jury, which reviewed thousands of documents and prompted the attorney general to warn of indictments under the state’s child endangerment law.
Rather than go through with the indictments, the state agreed to a settlement with the school that mandated the installation of a compliance overseer on campus to observe the school’s reforms to its sexual assault prevention policies, and initiate independent investigations into any allegations.
Sullivan, the current overseer, took over after the previous person in the position, Jeffrey Maher, resigned in October 2020, accusing the school of interfering with his role.
“We are grateful for these insights and recommendations, as well as our ongoing work with Mr. Sullivan,” said Kathy Giles, the St. Paul’s School rector. “We continue to meet and exceed the settlement agreement’s requirements, and we appreciate and value the many partners who are engaging in this work and helping us continue to build a robust, vibrant, safe, and healthy school culture for SPS students today and going forward.”
Beginning this year, the school has installed “a dedicated and accessible space on campus” to house an advocate from the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, one of the state’s domestic violence and sexual assault crisis centers. That advocate can provide confidential support and make reports to the state Division for Children, Youth, and Families if necessary.
In July, the school also entered into a two-year partnership with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) that will include “a comprehensive audit and assessment of the school’s sexual misconduct prevention and response programming.”
The report outlined two cases in which the school had taken action against students. The school filed a report with the Concord Police Department after a January “incident of a simple assault” between two students at a sporting event, but later resolved the issue “in a way acceptable to all parties,” the report stated.
And during the spring, the school hired an external investigator to look into reports of sexual harassment and intimidation by a group of students against another. “When the investigation concluded, any students who may have faced possible disciplinary action withdrew from the school prior to the commencement of any disciplinary proceedings,” the report noted.
Sullivan, who was chosen for the overseer role by the Attorney General’s Office from a list of three nominations by the school, said the school’s response could be instructional.
“It is my hope that the steps taken throughout this incident will set an example to all students that such behavior will not be accepted,” he wrote. “Hopefully it will both discourage such behavior and empower victims to come forward knowing that they will be believed and action will be taken.”
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