×

Proceedings in civil lawsuit against St. Paul’s on hold for settlement talks

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



Monitor staff
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Attorneys have jointly asked a judge to suspend for 60 days all legal proceedings in a civil lawsuit filed against St. Paul’s School as both sides discuss the possibility of a settlement in lieu of a federal jury trial.

The Concord prep school was due Monday to answer the lawsuit, which was filed in May pseudonymously by a former student who says she was repeatedly sexually harassed and raped. However, the court instead heard from attorneys for the victim who argued a stay of the case would “avoid needless litigation and conserve judicial resources by potentially facilitating an early resolution to the action.”

St. Paul’s has requested three separate extensions since late July to respond to the lawsuit, which details a hypersexualized culture at the school that allowed for the objectification and abuse of female students.

The former student – who was recruited by St. Paul's at age 13 and enrolled in 2012 – claims administrators knew of sexual conquest games, including the now-infamous “Senior Salute,” yet turned a blind eye to reports made by students who were targeted.

Further, the lawsuit alleges that administrators knew the girl had been raped but failed to provide her with support services and educational accommodations. Instead, she was forced to withdraw from the school or otherwise be expelled, the complaint says.

The girl brought several claims against the school, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty. She is also suing under Title IX, the civil rights law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program receiving federal assistance. St. Paul’s was receiving federal education funding in 2012-13 and yet the school failed to have a Title IX coordinator and did not have policies to offer accommodations to victims of sexual assault or for investigating sexual harassment and abuse, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court by Concord attorney Charles Douglas and Steven Kelly of the Maryland-based law firm Sandford Heisler Sharp, LLC, both of whom represented sexual assault survivor Chessy Prout and her parents in a 2016 suit against St. Paul's. That case was settled in January through a confidential agreement.

The claims in Jane Doe’s suit mirror many of those brought by Alex and Susan Prout on behalf of their daughter after Owen Labrie’s conviction on statutory rape and other charges. The Prouts said St. Paul’s had failed to “meet its most basic obligations to protect the children entrusted to its care” and that administrators knew about games of sexual conquest but did nothing.

Labrie, who must register as a sex offender for life, is out of jail on bail conditions pending the resolution of two New Hampshire Supreme Court appeals, one of which is scheduled Thursday for oral arguments.

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