St. Paul’s has victim advocate

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

Monitor staff
Published: 9/9/2021 6:11:30 PM

An advocate from the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire joined the St. Paul’s School campus last school year to provide regular free and confidential support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, according to a report by new an independent compliance overseer.

In his first report, released Thursday by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, Donald Sullivan said the advocate uses a former radio space in the Friedman Community Center that has soundproofed walls and a frosted window to hold the support sessions, which are advertised to students.

“It is clear that the school has embraced the presence of the advocate,” Sullivan wrote.

The report also cites two incidents where the school responded to reports of misconduct, and provides an update on the school’s progress in implementing state recommendations.

This is the fourth semi-annual report on St. Paul’s School. The third report, which was authored by former compliance overseer Jeff Maher before his abrupt resignation in October 2020, was also released Thursday.

Maher's last report focused on the importance of hiring the right educators for the job and revealed little discord between him and the school.

Sullivan began his work at the school on January 18, in the middle of the pandemic. 

“To say that COVID-19 affected almost every aspect of our lives is an understatement,” Sullivan wrote. “...There is no way to tell how much the diminished on-campus time or other COVID-19 protocols affected the number of reportable incidents, but it is reasonable to assume that there was some reduction.”

The overseer position was created at St. Paul’s School at the end of 2018, following a 14-month-long criminal investigation into the school’s handling of reported sexual assaults. Rather than pursue charges of child endangerment, a misdemeanor-level offense, the school and state prosecutors reached an agreement that was meant to “facilitate the protection of children at St. Paul’s School, and to ensure a system of accountability, oversight, transparency, and training at the school,” according to the Attorney General’s Office. The overseer is embedded on the St. Paul’s School campus and tasked with reporting at least bi-annually to the Attorney General’s Office regarding St. Paul’s School’s compliance with all of the terms of the agreement.

In his report, Sullivan outlined two instances this year where the school handled reports of misconduct. This spring, the document says St. Paul’s School received reports of possible sexual harassment and intimidating behavior from a group of students. The school hired an external investigator, who interviewed 22 students and a teacher and reviewed documents about the case. At the end of the investigation, Sullivan said, any students in question who may have faced possible disciplinary action withdrew from St. Paul’s School prior to receiving discipline.

“It is my hope that the steps taken throughout this incident will set an example to all students that such behavior will not be accepted,” Sullivan wrote. “Hopefully it will both discourage such behavior and empower victims to come forward knowing that they will be believed and action will be taken.”

The other event outlined in the document was an incident of a simple assault between two students at a sporting event, where Sullivan said a department head neglected to report the incident to the student’s parents as is required by New Hampshire’s Safe School Zones Act.

“Even though this department head may have had the best of intentions, the complexities of the mandatory reporting laws are difficult to navigate,” Sullivan wrote. “I recommend that the school continue with in-depth training for all faculty in the area of reporting requirements.”

Sullivan’s report describes steps the school has taken to be compliant with the state agreement, including implementing Maxient, a case management software system, to track reports of misconduct – including sexual assault, harassment, bullying, discrimination or academic misconduct. Sullivan wrote that the software system is more accessible and more easily organized than the school’s previous system, which were separate electronic files and folder stored on the school’s servers. 

Since January 2021, 19 reports of both active and historic incidents have been made by students, teachers, campus safety and the health center according to Sullivan’s document, including four active reports of sexual assault that were non-consensual due to age and two active reports of child abuse.

Currently, Sullivan gets notifications of all reports, and has access to the system to monitor them for compliance issues. He recommended in the report that after the compliance overseer term ends, that the school designate at  least two people to receive and review the reports filed through Maxient and ensure proper procedures are followed for each report.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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