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Report: No action taken after repeated sexual misconduct by ex-St. Paul’s teacher



Monitor staff
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In 1974, then-St. Paul’s School English teacher Lawrence “Larry” Katzenbach asked a student who had missed class to come to his apartment to catch up on what she had missed.

According to an account she gave to investigators with Casner & Edwards, a Boston-based law firm, more than 40 years later, she agreed, and, while they were leaning over a book in his apartment later that day, Katzenbach slipped his hand under her shirt, groping her left breast.

The student reportedly ran out of Katzenbach’s apartment, straight to then-dean of admissions John Buxton’s office to report the incident.

“What did you do to make him behave that way?” she recalled Buxton asking.

The woman’s story is recounted in an extensive report written by the firm that detailed dozens of instances of sexual misconduct and abuse by at least 13 former faculty and staff members over 40 years at the school.

Buxton, for his part, told investigators he couldn’t remember the conversation.

“Maybe she did, it’s possible. I just have no memory of it,” he said, according to the report.

According to investigators, most of the victims and witnesses interviewed for the report never reported the sexual misconduct they knew about or experienced to administrators or faculty. The reasons for keeping quiet were varied, according to the report, but included a lack of reporting mechanisms in place, a fear of retaliation for reporting misconduct by faculty who were – like Katzenbach – revered by the wider school community, and a sense of shame.

But Katzenbach’s case, detailed at length in the report, stands out for the repeated instances in which administrators and staff received complaints about his behavior from multiple accusers but still did little to nothing to protect students.

In 1976, Buxton was told by another student that Katzenbach had propositioned her and a classmate, asking them separately to go away with him for the weekend. Buxton told investigators in 2017 that he recalled that student alleging Katzenbach had made sexually inappropriate comments. He told investigators, according to the report, that then-rector William Oates instructed him to meet with Katzenbach, who denied saying anything inappropriate.

According to the report, however, investigators uncovered a letter from the school’s attorneys from 1994 in which Buxton is reported to have said that he kept the students’ report from administrators – at the students’ request.

In 1991, the same student who had reported the weekend-getaway proposition in 1976 to Buxton again reached out to school officials, writing to then-Vice Rector Roberta Tenney. She said she had just attended her 15-year reunion and heard from multiple former female students that they’d had similar experiences with Katzenbach, who was still teaching at the school. Administrators don’t appear to have taken any follow-up action, according to the report, and ignored another letter the alumna wrote in 1992 to Rector David Hicks.

In 1993, another former student wrote Hicks, according to the report, this time to say that she’d had an extended affair with Katzenbach in 1982, starting when she was 18. That student attached “love letters” Katzenbach had written to her, and added that another student had confided in her also having an affair with Katzenbach – starting when she was just 16.

Hicks wrote back that the school had looked into the matter in a “deliberate, serious, and thorough manner” but that Katzenbach “(did) not pose a threat or danger to any (St. Paul’s School) students, and that he (would) not expose them to risk in the future” because he did not live in a student dormitory, according to the report.

Tenney told investigators that the school’s board of trustees had played a key role in pressuring administrators to keep Katzenbach on, and that she had been forced to resign after refusing to support keeping Katzenbach on staff.

In 1994, Katzenbach resigned of his own volition, according to the report, writing to administrators that he was leaving “for personal, professional, and philosophical reasons on which (he) would rather not elaborate.”

He did, however, ask to be kept on the school’s payroll for another year – a request that Hicks agreed to. In 1997, when Katzenbach was applying to teaching positions in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, St. Paul’s interim rector, Clifford Gillespie, wrote him “glowing” recommendations, according to the report. Gillespie was aware of at least two reports made by students during the 1992-93 school year alleging sexually inappropriate behavior and comments by Katzenbach.

Later in 1997, Katzenbach died of complications from diabetes in Washington, D.C., according to an article in the Princeton University alumni magazine. He was 53.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)