The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville is the latest Connecticut boarding school that’s had to acknowledge reports of sexual abuse of students. The findings of an independent investigation conducted by the Locke Lord law firm were released Friday.
The report detailed sexual abuse carried out by seven former faculty members from 1969 to 1992.
The most damning evidence centers on a classics teacher, Leif Thorne-Thomson, who was dismissed in 1992 after being placed on leave.
“A woman that I represented who was a star student at Hotchkiss, who was a brilliant writer and poet, who was preyed on by Thorne-Thomsen—she’s now someone who’s struggled throughout her entire life,” said Eric MacLeish, an attorney for one of the victims. “She’s not married, she doesn’t have a partner, she works in completely menial jobs despite the fact that she went to a top college, and she’s suffered profound psychological injury.”
The school was aware of Thorne-Thomsen’s actions. He was placed on paid leave in 1979 after he was found to be staying in a motel with one of his students. But then he returned to the school seven months later.
Around this time in the 1970s, Thorne-Thomsen was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student who took and later withdrew from his Latin class. He re-connected with the student in college and later married her in a ceremony on campus officiated by the man who was the head of school at the time.
Connecticut’s statute of limitations won’t allow for Thorne-Thomsen’s prosecution.
“Hotchkiss is responsible for the actions and inactions of all those who were at the school and failed to take action to stop predators like Thorne-Thomsen,” MacLeish said. “I just don’t understand why the welfare of the students was not more important than the continuing educational career of someone like Thorne-Thomsen.”
The school has issued a message through its website, acknowledging the abuse. It’s signed by Jean Weinberg Rose, president of the board of trustees, and Hotchkiss head of school, Craig W. Bradley.
“To the survivors of abuse, we apologize from the bottom of our hearts,” read the statement. “The School did not live up to its commitment to protect you.”
The school said its board of trustees has acted on the report’s findings by erasing the names of those accused from the school’s record, along with former administrators who failed to respond to abuse claims. Arthur White, the man who officiated Thorne Thomsen’s on-campus wedding, has resigned from his position as a trustee emeritus.