Police eye St. Paul’s ‘relationship map’ after parent’s 2016 sex assault report

  • St. Paul’s School in Concord, Monday, May 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 7/6/2017 9:40:22 PM

Concord police opened an investigation last fall into students’ names connected through “a relationship map” found in the laundry room of a St. Paul’s student dormitory.

That investigation is now suspended, pending any new information or renewed cooperation from the parties involved, Concord police Lt. Sean Ford said Thursday morning.

Police first learned about the map in late September 2016 after receiving a call from a concerned parent who reported her 14-year-old daughter may have been sexually assaulted during the 2015-16 school year, records show. The girl’s mother said St. Paul’s Dean of Students Aaron Marsh told her about the school’s internal investigation into the map, which included her daughter’s name.

Marsh told Concord police that “the map linked a number of students together and suggested romantic involvement,” according to a police report.

The map is the latest in a string of information to come to light about possible student sexual assaults and games of sexual conquest at St. Paul’s, all of which have raised questions about the school’s process for reporting to law enforcement.

In an interview Thursday, Marsh said a student notified a faculty member about the map, and that faculty member reported it to the administration.

“We did not make a police report because there was nothing we found to be reportable under the Safe Schools Act,” Marsh said of New Hampshire’s statute that governs when and how crime is reported on school campuses.

Dean of Student Life Theresa Ferns added that school administrators reached out to Concord police after the review began and shared notes from the internal investigation.

Ford wrote in his incident report last fall that he contacted Marsh about the matter soon after the girl’s mother called police Sept. 23. Ford noted that St. Paul’s had not previously notified the department about the map, or its internal investigation prior to that conversation.

Marsh told Ford that he reached out to the girl’s parents about the internal investigation as a matter of protocol. He said the school became aware of “a relationship map in a residential dorm,” found on the underside of a shelf in a basement laundry room.

The map bears some similarity to the now-infamous springtime ritual at the school known as the “Senior Salute,” where upperclassmen would keep score of their sexual conquests in a laundry room. The rules of the game took center stage at the 2015 trial of Owen Labrie, an 18-year-old graduate who was found guilty of propositioning a 15-year-old freshman girl online for sex.

On Thursday, Marsh added that school administrators reached out to parents and every student who was on the list, and spoke to them directly about the matter. He said dorm meetings were also held to communicate to students that “this behavior was not in line with our school values and expectations.”

By the time Ford spoke with Marsh the week of Sept. 26, the school’s internal investigation had concluded.

“Marsh advised me that the school determined that if there was any indication of statutory and/or unconsensual sexual activity discovered, they would notify CPD immediately and request police involvement,” Ford wrote, using the acronym for the Concord Police Department.

Marsh explained that the investigation ultimately revealed no sexual penetration of students under the age of consent, which is 16 in New Hampshire.

The school’s decision to pursue internal investigations has been an ongoing source of friction between St. Paul’s and Concord police. Ford previously told the Monitor it’s important for local police to be involved from the outset, and not after an internal investigation has already ensued.

A memorandum of understanding between St. Paul’s and Concord police spells out which crimes the school must report to local law enforcement, and it gives a 48-hour window for doing so. The department has similar long-standing agreements with other city schools, as well. The language of those agreements is guided by the state’s Safe School’s Act.

A St. Paul’s rector and the Concord police chief last signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2012, and it is that same agreement that remains in effect today.

Administrators at St. Paul’s confirmed last week that they are investigating another report of “concerning” behavior among students after a crown surfaced this past school year.

In a letter to the school community, St. Paul’s Rector Michael Hirschfeld said seniors reported to faculty their concerns that a group of underclassmen were “writing down their relationships with other students on a fast-food chain crown.”

Several people connected with the school told the Monitor in June that St. Paul’s learned about the game just prior to commencement. Roughly eight boys from the same dormitory took part, competing to have their names put on a crown. One boy withdrew from the school after the game came to the attention of administrators.

The school made its first public statement about the investigation after it was reported in the media.

All of this is playing out as a civil lawsuit is pending against the school in U.S. District Court. The family of Labrie’s victim is accusing the school of allowing a perverse sexual culture to fester at the school.

A year following Labrie’s conviction, Chessy Prout shed her anonymity as the survivor in that sexual assault case. Prout has since become an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. She is an ambassador for the Washington, D.C.-based organization Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, with whom she launched her social media campaign under the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo.

In a statement Thursday, Prout demanded more from the school.

“It sickens me that an institution that’s in the business of teaching is incapable of learning lessons from its own misdeeds,” she said. “How many more sad and egregious examples are needed before changes in leadership and policies are demanded by students, parents, alumni and the community?”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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