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St. George's school says inquiry found 26 cases of sexual misconduct

St. George's School released a report on its nearly year-long inquiry into sexual misconduct to alumni of the school.
St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island.
St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island.

An internal investigation at a Rhode Island prep school found that at least 26 students were sexually abused by staff in the 1970s and 80s — and that the alleged perpetrators were fired but not reported to authorities.

St. George's School released a report on its nearly year-long inquiry into sexual misconduct to alumni of the Middletown, Rhode Island-based boarding school Wednesday night.

It identified six former employees who allegedly committed sexual misconduct in the 1970s and 80s and expressed "regret, sorrow, and shame that students in our care were hurt."

Four of the six had been dismissed by St. George's — which hosts grades 9-12 — though the inquiry made clear the school did not do enough.

"It is evident that school failed on several occasions to fulfill its legal reporting requirements to the authorities," the report said. "The school could have done more to keep its students safe."

The inquiry received "credible first-hand accounts" and corroborating evidence which "strongly" suggested that three of the former school employees committed sexual misconduct against "multiple" students — resulting in a total of 23 victims. Three other former employees had one victim each, the report added.

The school's report said that none of the living alleged perpetrators was contacted as part of the inquiry due to the advice of the authorities.

Only one alleged perpetrator was named in the report: former athletic trainer Al Gibbs, who died in 1996. Gibbs was fired from the school in 1980 for "inappropriate activity" after a senior allegedly found him taking pictures of a naked female student.

"Regrettably, the school did not report misconduct by Gibbs to any state agency at the time of his termination in 1980," the report said. It was not immediately clear if Gibbs contested the allegations at the time.

The St. George's report said that firsthand accounts accused Gibbs of engaging in a "range" of inappropriate actions, including "fondling or grabbing the breasts of seven different students, touching the genitals of three students, and in one case, rape."

Of the other alleged perpetrators, the investigation showed that one reportedly had inappropriate and potentially sexual contact with at least three students. The staffer admitted to misconduct after a parent contacted the school and was fired, but authorities were not contacted.

One student told the inquiry that he slept in the same room with another one of the alleged perpetrators, where the student was raped.

Another was apparently warned "not to give students more backrubs" years before he was fired over an inappropriate relationship with a student. The new report found that the employee watched pornography with students, touched them sexually and engineered "nude encounters."

Meanwhile, alleged perpetrator #5 was fired for giving students alcohol — but the inquiry uncovered allegations of sexual touching and an attempt to perform oral sex on a student.

The last — "#6" — reportedly was in a long-term relationship with a student.

"As a result of this relationship, the student reportedly attempted suicide, suffering severe injuries," the report said.

It called the results of the abuse — which in addition to suicide attempts included acting out, suffering from depression, and the inability to form healthy relationships — for victims "heartbreaking."

"The school deeply regrets what happened to them, and we pledge to do all we can to support and help them in their efforts to heal," the report said.

The 11-page report — which also uncovered allegations that three former students had engaged in sexual misconduct — was the culmination of a nearly year-long internal investigation requested by the school's administration.

"The school underscores its regret, sorrow, and shame that students in our care were hurt," it said. "We commit ourselves to taking responsibility, to healing those wounds, and to making every effort to mend the fabric of the St. George's community." 

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