An Elite Rhode Island Boarding School Agrees To Settle Up To 30 Abuse Cases

Dozens of alumni have alleged they were abused by teachers, staff, and fellow students at an elite boarding school in Rhode Island, and on Wednesday, St. George’s School agreed to settle sexual abuse cases going all the way back to the ’70s. The school made the announcement in a joint statement with a group representing sexual abuse victims, revealing that each victim will receive a check to settle the claims, with a mediator deciding how much each victims gets. “St. George’s has done something meaningful and important for survivors,” said Anne Scott, who alleged she was raped in the ’70s by the former school athletic director, in a news release. “It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to receive this kind of validation and support, after all these years.”

Up to 30 former students’ cases will be closed, with the terms of the settlement remaining confidential. Scott’s allegations encouraged more people to come forward about what happened to them at the school, though a criminal investigation into St. George’s by the Rhode Island State Police didn’t lead to any charges. Laws about the failure to report crimes weren’t on the books in Rhode Island until 1979, so allegations that the school failed to act on allegations before that were void, while other cases had passed the statute of limitations.

When the announcement was made that no criminal charges would be filed in June, Scott, now 53, told The Boston Globe’s Bella English, “It highlights the urgency for reform for our civil and criminal statutes, both with regard to assault and mandatory reporting. The system can do a lot better for survivors.”

Scott claims she was 15 years old when she was first raped by the athletic director, Al Gibbs, who’s now deceased. Another former student, Katie Wales Lovkay, told the school’s headmaster she was abused by the same man, but he just sent her to the school therapist, and she was expelled a week before her 1980 graduation. She told English of Wednesday’s settlement, “It’s a huge relief that it’s done with.”

The school released a report of its own in December saying 26 students were allegedly sexually abused by six employees over the years. The school admitted that it didn’t report the allegations. In some cases, administrators didn’t believe the alleged victims and in others the accused were forced out, but went on to work at other schools, according to the Associated Press.

Leslie Heaney, chair of the school’s board of trustees, told the Associated Press of the settlement, “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.”