The attorney general of New Hampshire announced on Thursday a criminal investigation into St. Paul’s School in Concord. The elite boarding school has been mired in controversy in recent years, beginning with the sexual assault trial involving former student Owen Labrie and a report released in May that acknowledged decades of sexual misconduct.
St. Paul's, which counts former Secretary of State John Kerry and Cornelius Vanderbilt III among its alumni, is being investigated over "whether the school endangered child welfare or committed obstruction of governmental operations," the New York Times reports.
"This is a groundbreaking announcement."
New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald said in a written statement that "the investigation has been initiated as the result of a 2017 report concerning sexual assaults by St. Paul's teachers on their students; earlier information about student sexual conquest rituals such as the 'senior salute,' a practice which led to the highly publicized arrest, trial and conviction of a St. Paul's student in 2015; and allegations of a similar ritual reported in June of this year."
"Protection of children is a paramount priority for law enforcement," MacDonald said in the statement. "I am confident that an institution such as St. Paul's School will be fully cooperative with this investigation as it has pledged that '[t]he safety and well-being of all students remains [its] highest priority."
The criminal investigation news comes on the heels of reports of abuse at other top boarding schools, like Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, St. George's School in Rhode Island, and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
Los Angeles attorney Paul Mones, who has represented victims of abuse, told the Times that is is very unusual for authorities to launch a criminal investigation into a private school.
"This is a groundbreaking announcement," Mones said. "I think it’s going to be a warning shot across the bow of private schools and other institutions."
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