AG details settlement to better protect young people from sexual abuse on campus of elite St. Paul's SchoolBy KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 13. 2018 10:26PM
CONCORD — Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald announced his office reached a five-year settlement agreement over child sexual abuse charges with St. Paul's School to monitor behavior on its campus, provide training to staff and services to victims.
MacDonald said prosecutors could have charged St. Paul's and "certain individuals" with misdemeanor child endangerment charges.
"We concluded the duty to protect students and others at the school would not be advanced by a protracted process that would have resulted in misdemeanor convictions and fines against the school," MacDonald said. "Rather we pursued comprehensive reform."
This agreement does not prevent the state from charging any individual with criminal conduct that it discovers in the future. This settlement does conclude the criminal probe of the school itself, officials said.
St. Paul's executives put out a statement adding that the school had already been performing some of the initiatives in the 17-page settlement the school reached with the AG.
"We wholeheartedly embrace the additional measures that ensure our students' well-being, among them: training of the Board of Trustees and senior leadership in trauma-informed responses to allegations of physical or sexual abuse and the retention of an independent victim advocate who will have dedicated office space on the grounds and will be available to our students," said interim Rector Amy Richards and Board of Trustees President Archibald Cox Jr.
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence embraced the agreement and said it's much better than a criminal conviction.
"This would have likely resulted in the school merely having to pay a fine, if found guilty. That limited accountability would have been a blip on the screen and a day in the media, yet would have resulted in minimal change for the children who live, work and study on St. Paul's campus every day," said Executive Director Lyn Schollett, executive director of the coalition.
The deal calls for the state to choose an independent overseer who will set up a permanent office on campus. MacDonald said that will take a couple of months to set up.
Chessy Prout was a St. Paul's School student who accused Owen Labrie of sexual assault and wrote a book about the ordeal.
Her parents, Alex and Susan Prout, attended the AG's news conference and their lawyer praised the deal.
"As attorney for the Prouts, I am pleased that the attorney general has entered into an unprecedented oversight agreement with a private secondary school," said Chuck Douglas.
"The Prouts have conveyed to Gordon MacDonald that the accountability and change needed to change a campus culture has finally happened thanks to his persistence."
St. Paul's agrees to pay nearly all of the costs of this agreement as well as the cost for the state to investigate the school.
The school also has to provide space on campus for a full-time victim's advocate who would remain employed with the local domestic violence crisis center.
Last month, David Pook, a former St. Paul's teacher, pleaded guilty to lying to the investigative grand jury MacDonald had set up to investigate reports of abuse of students by staff and fellow students.
MacDonald said in a few months his office will produce and release to the public a final report on the specific allegations that were raised during this 14-month investigation. St. Paul's School has waived its right to confidentiality regarding all the statements made before the investigative grand jury on the matter.
If the school fails to honor the terms of the settlement, MacDonald said the state is free to resume criminal prosecution.
MacDonald praised the work of a task force he had named to investigate the matter; it was led by Deputy Attorney General Jane Young.
And he said none of this could have been achieved without the help of victims and their advocates.
"We would not be here without the courage of former St. Paul's students who were witnesses as well as survivors," MacDonald said.
Settlement between St. Paul's School and NH AG's office:
Updated Memorandum of Understanding between St. Paul's School and the Concord Police Department: