St. George's Responds To Growing Abuse Allegations

Jan 5, 2016

In a written statement, St. George's School  "deeply apologizes" for the harm done by employees and former students accused of sexual abuse.

St. George's campus was quiet on Tuesday afternoon. Students had recently returned from winter break.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison

"We recognize the long-lasting impact of sexual abuse and are dedicated to working with survivors to aid them in healing from its painful aftermath," the school said on Tuesday.

The statement followed an afternoon press conference in which attorneys for several former students said they have received 40 "credible reports of abuse" from alumni, more than the school has previously acknowledged.

"Three quarters of these reports have been made in the last 20 days," wrote the attorneys, Eric MacLeish and Carmen Durso in a response to the school's internal investigation. "The total number of alleged staff perpetrators of abuse is seven, with the most recent in 2004. The total number of students reporting rape by other students is four."

St. George's School, in its investigation, found 26 credible accounts of abuse by former students, involving six former school employees. The school also found some evidence of student-on-student sexual violence.

Officials at St. George's school declined to speak to RIPR about their findings outside of the written statement.

"We have made a public report on this investigation but the work remains ongoing," the statement said.

The school has offered to pay for counseling for former students and says it is cooperating with law enforcement and child protection agencies. 

Administrators at St. George's declined to speak to RIPR about allegations the sexual abuse may be more widespread than previously known.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

 St. George's has not responded to the release by attorneys for former students of the names of two alleged perpetrators, the former choir director Franklin Coleman and a former assistant chaplain, Rev. Howard White. Both men reportedly left St. George's and later worked in other schools, which is part of the reason the attorneys said they wanted to go public with the names.

"We decided to do it because they are out there. One admitted it," said attorney Eric MacLeish. "The other one had multiple allegations against him, and we have multiple victims who have spoken of him, and we thought it was the right thing to do."

A former student at St. George's School himself, MacLeish also represented survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests.

"We want to know whether this was like the Catholic Church, whether the bad apples got farmed out to other places where they'd have a feast on unsuspecting victims," MacLeish said.

Rhode Island's Episcopal Bishop, the Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, issued a letter to clergy on Tuesday in response to the unfolding scandal, noting that one Episcopal priest and a person who worked in Episcopal congregations have been named as alleged perpetrators. An Episcopal priest also stands accused of failing to report allegations of abuse.

"I have been in touch with bishops in whose dioceses the three men reside, and am currently working with other church leaders to make sure that appropriate disciplinary proceedings are initiated in the case of the clergy named," Knisely said, adding that he has also been in contact with Rhode Island State Police.

"The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island makes every effort to deal responsibly and responsively with complaints and allegations of misconduct, which includes making reports to the appropriate authorities when child abuse is suspected," said Knisely.