Elite prep school settles with sex abuse survivors

Police investigate prep school sexual abuse allegations
Police investigate prep school sexual abuse allegations

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Story highlights

  • Rhode Island prep school has said at least 40 people came forward claiming they were abuse victims
  • School: "To all victims, we are truly, deeply sorry for the harm done to you by former employees or former students"

(CNN)The prestigious St. George's School in Rhode Island has agreed to a settlement with up to 30 former students who say they were victims of sexual abuse at the prep school during the 1970s and '80s.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, follows a monthslong independent investigation approved by the school's board of trustees in January. The terms and sum of the settlement were not made public.
    "We are deeply grateful to the Board of Trustees for their leadership and compassion. It's hard to put into words what it feels like to receive this kind of validation and support, after all these years. Our spirits are renewed on our forward healing journey," survivor representative Anne Scott said in a statement.
    A field hockey player during her sophomore year in 1977, Scott suffered an injury and was sent to the trainer, she said. There were 50 girls enrolled after the school became co-ed just a few years earlier, according to Scott. There were no locker rooms for girls and an area in the boys' locker room was where she said the athletic trainer raped her.
    According to Scott, a class of 1980 graduate, she was told not to report it.

    'We are truly, deeply sorry'

    The school in Middleton, near Newport, has said at least 40 people came forward saying they were abuse victims.
    St. George's completed an internal investigation last year that revealed the school did not report the incidents to authorities at the time of the abuse. The school then contacted the Rhode Island State Police.
    "To all victims, we are truly, deeply sorry for the harm done to you by former employees or former students of the school," the school's report said. "We are heartbroken for you and for the pain and suffering that you have endured."

    'I don't want to see this happen to another kid'

    Some of the victims, represented by attorney Carmen Durso, range in age from 28 to 61. The abuse happened over many years, Durso said, to both male and female students. Girls were made fun of by teachers, the victims told him. In one instance, a victim told him there was a school event where they asked the girls to dress up like Playboy bunnies, Durso said.
    "Virtually none of them were motivated by money. They all said, 'I don't want to see this happen to another kid'," he told CNN affiliate WPRI. His clients' case would likely have not been successful in court given the statute of limitations, Durso said.
    The school said it hopes the settlement will help the survivors and community heal.
    "It is our sincere hope that this agreed resolution will assist our survivors as they move forward towards healing," said Leslie Heaney, chair of the St. George's board of trustees, in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with our survivor community so that the lessons learned can ensure the safety of our current and future generations of St. George's students."
    Scott's lawyer, Eric MacLeish, said he appreciates the efforts made by the school to acknowledge survivors. "Anne was brutally molested," he said, "and had the courage to come back and take on the school again, was brutalized after that and yet came forward with me in 2015 when we both came to the school as alumni asking for a community letter to be sent out. What happened after that is an amazing story," MacLeish said.
    Durso described Scott as a hero, saying she made it possible for people to tell their stories.
    An independent investigation is being conducted by Boston attorney Martin Murphy, according to St. George's School website. The results are expected this month, Scott said.
    St. George's school admitted girls for the first time in 1972. Founded in 1896, the co-ed Episcopal school has produced such noteworthy alumni as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and U.S. Sen. Prescott Bush, father of former President George H. W. Bush.