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Prep school finds fault

Deerfield’s internal report regarding sexual misconduct claims released

DEERFIELD — Deerfield Academy has released findings from the investigation launched into reports of sexual misconduct by a former teacher in the 1980s, accusing and releasing the name of a second teacher and criticizing the school administrations in the 1980s and 2000s for failing to act on allegations made at the time.

Both men were well-respected educators and have been honored with their names on school property and institutions, which the school announces will now be expunged.

The private high school announced in January that it had hired an independent law firm to investigate a former student’s allegation that he was subjected to sexual contact in the 1980s by Peter Hindle, a faculty member between 1956 and 2000.

“We are now ready to share the investigators’ findings and this letter is our report,” reads a document posted Saturday on the school’s website and carrying the names of the president of the board of trustees and the head of school.

The report faults the school’s administration in the 1980s and in the early 2000s; expands on the allegations against Hindle and raises separate allegations against Bryce Lambert, identified as a teacher who retired in 1990 and is now deceased.

Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office released a statement Saturday in response to the Deerfield Academy report. The statement praises the school for candid acceptance of responsibility and promises an investigation.

“We intend to independently investigate whether these abuse allegations were criminal in nature and, if so, whether or not the statute of limitations or other factors would preclude criminal prosecution,” reads Sullivan’s statement.

According to the school report, “The investigation confirmed that sexual conduct by Peter Hindle occurred with the student who came forward and there is evidence that such conduct occurred with at least one other student.”

One student has alleged that Hindle first offered him back rubs then, “after several back-rub sessions, performed sexual acts on over eight different occasions over an extended period,” according to the report.

According to the report, Hindle admitted to the school’s lawyer and later to independent investigators that sexual contact with the student had taken place one time, claiming the sexual contact was against Hindle’s will “yet he neither resisted nor reported the incident.”

“The detail Mr. Hindle provided to the investigators was explicit and, in no conceivable way, could it be described as a simple ‘back rub,’” the report continues.

Following the initial letter from the school naming him, Hindle was reported as saying he had given some students back rubs over the years, but did not confirm the school’s assertion that he had admitted to any inappropriate behavior.

Reached Sunday afternoon at his home in eastern Mass., Hindle said he was not going to say anything as his lawyer had advised him not to. Boston Lawyer Michael Collora could not be reached Sunday for comment.

According to the report, two unrelated student victims recently came forward with allegations that Lambert had inappropriate sexual contact with them. According to the report, the alleged incidents were separated by several years and the students were consistent regarding the nature of the conduct.

In response, the school is in the process of reviewing and enhancing its policies regarding sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, at the recommendation of the board of trustees, according to the report. The board will also rename the Peter G. Hindle ’52 Schoolmaster’s Chair, remove his name from the school’s squash facility and forbid him from attending events on campus. Plans call for renaming the Bryce Lambert Fund and the Bryce V. Lambert Writing Fellowship.

According to the district attorney’s office, a complaint or indictment alleging child abuse can be filed any time after the offense is committed for up to 27 years, and claims made outside of that window must be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim’s allegation.

The Recorder declined to identify Hindle by name in previous articles because he has not been charged with any crime. Hindle and now Lambert are here identified by name due to the public and identity-specific nature of the school’s sanctions against them.

The school’s report faults its response to the allegations against Hindle.

According to the report, a second student in the 1980s made an allegation against Hindle and the student’s mother sent a letter at the time expressing serious concern about a “deviant act” committed against her son.

That student has so far declined to be interviewed by the school’s investigators and the investigators have been unable to confirm sexual contact with other students, according to the report, but have communicated with numerous other alumni and faculty who said they experienced or heard of incidents that should have raised red flags.

“Our investigation led to the conclusion that the Deerfield Academy administration in the 1980s could have moved more forcefully to address indications of unacceptable behavior by Mr. Hindle. Given Mr. Hindle’s denials and highly revered status, the administration relied solely on verbal and written warnings,” reads the report.

Administration at the time did terminate two other faculty members for inappropriate conduct with students, according to the report.

Investigators received and evaluated an unspecified number of reports regarding other former faculty members.

“The majority of the reports concerned past incidents that were non-sexual in nature but that would not be tolerated in today’s environment. And, although three reports concerned alleged sexual behavior, the investigators were not able to corroborate them,” reads the report.

The faculty members involved are not named because some of the allegations were raised at the time and the faculty members were dismissed, and, when appropriate, reports were made to authorities, according to the report.

A second allegation, from the same student who made the latest allegation, came in the early 2000s and did not name Hindle. The report faults administration at the time for not interviewing the former student or attempting to identify the unnamed teacher now identified as Hindle.

“The administration, however, did communicate with the student who has indicated that he was satisfied at the time with the response,” reads the report.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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