Headmaster leaving after prep school sex abuse investigation

2016-06-08 12:14

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Providence – The headmaster of a prestigious boarding school has announced his departure days after state police concluded an investigation into dozens of sexual abuse allegations there with no criminal charges.

The St George's School Board of Trustees announced on Tuesday that headmaster Eric Peterson won't seek to extend his contract, which ends June 30, 2017. Peterson has been headmaster of the Episcopal school in Middletown, near Newport, since 2004.

In an email to the school community, board chairperson Leslie Heaney expressed profound gratitude for Peterson's leadership and briefly addressed the abuse scandal.

"Throughout this transition, the school's commitment to addressing past instances of sexual abuse and to supporting our survivor community will remain steadfast, as will our efforts to advance educational innovation, support our faculty and challenge our students," she wrote.

Police investigated dozens of former students' allegations of abuse by employees and classmates but announced on Thursday they couldn't proceed with criminal charges. Among the reasons they cited were the statute of limitations and different laws when the abuse occurred.

An independent investigation of the abuse by a Boston law firm is expected to conclude later this month.

The police investigation spanned as far back as the 1970s and as recently as 2005.

He ‘chose silence’

Peterson was told by multiple victims about sexual abuse, starting in 2004, the year he became headmaster, but the school did not report it to authorities until November. The school acknowledged in December that it repeatedly failed to notify authorities about abuse, and it apologised.

Peterson did not directly address the scandal in his own email to the school community, but he acknowledged that recent months had been challenging for the school. He did not detail his plans but said the decision came at a "logical point" for him and his family, and he said he was hopeful the timing would allow for a thorough search to find his successor.

Abused former student Anne Scott, who leads the survivors' support group SGS for Healing, said if a child at boarding school is raped or assaulted by an adult she naturally turns to the school's leader's for help.

"I welcome a coming era at independent schools, where its leaders can act — boldly, swiftly and clearly — in support of survivors," she said. "It makes a world of difference for justice and healing."

Victims' lawyer Eric MacLeish said Peterson was one of many school leaders who "chose silence about decades of sexual abuse at St George's over outreach, compassion and assistance to alumni victims."

"As someone who went to St George's," he said, "I hope that the next head of school approaches this crisis with a complete open heart to the survivors we represent and understands the devastation and trauma that these life-altering events caused."

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.