Deerfield Academy settles sexual abuse lawsuit


Recorder Staff

Published: 08-03-2016 11:04 PM

DEERFIELD — Deerfield Academy has settled a federal lawsuit filed by a former student who accused a former mathematics teacher at the prestigious private school of sexually abusing him.

The victim, referred to in the lawsuit as “John Doe” and who was 14 at the time of the 1979 incident, filed it against Peter Hindle, who retired from Deerfield Academy in 2000 after working there for over four decades.

Robert Hoatson, the co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey-based group that advocates for sexual abuse victims, said during a press conference at the school Wednesday that the victim now lives in California.

Though the press conference was held on Deerfield Academy’s campus, no one from the school attended the event.

Jessica Day, a Deerfield Academy spokeswoman, said the school does not comment on settlements out of respect for the victim.

“When he was 14 years old and began what he hoped to be a fantastic journey through a private school, he met a monster,” Hoatson said of the settlement. “By stepping forward he’s hopefully begun his own recovery.”

Hindle, according to the lawsuit, invited the victim to his residence on campus, where he sexually abused him and told him not to tell anyone. The lawsuit also named three “John Does,” who Hoatson said were administrators or other supervisors at the school who may have known what was happening.

Hindle currently lives in South Dartmouth. Reached at home Wednesday night, he declined to comment on the settlement.

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The victim’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, told The Recorder Wednesday that the settlement was for $200,000 and has been paid by Deerfield Academy. The lawsuit originally asked for $10 million.

“After my client’s sexual abuse, his life spiraled downward. He became very negative in life, and left for another school,” Garabedian said.

Garabedian, who is widely known for defending sexual abuse victims, said he represents at least four clients who have accused Hindle of sexually abusing them between 1974 and 1989, two of which he has won settlements for, and two others that he is still investigating. He’s also won settlements against former faculty member Bryce Lambert, he said.

Lambert has since died.

Hoatson said the settlement represents the crucial step of having a private institution like Deerfield Academy acknowledge what happened and apologize.

“It’s a sign that it’s been acknowledged, that something did happen, and this institution has taken responsibility for that. They’ve said ‘We believe you’” he said. ‘I’d love Deerfield Academy to say, ‘Whatever you need, we’re going to help you through that,’ but that unfortunately does not happen.”

He noted many other private schools in New England have also been facing allegations of sexual abuse by former students.

“They’ve had a horrible history of sexual abuse and we’ve only just scratched the surface,” Hoatson said. “Hopefully this will give others the courage to come forward. It’s six figures, but he’ll need the rest of his life to recover. Unfortunately, his perpetrator is living in probably fairly comfortable retirement and will never be held criminally accountable. Hopefully the people here at Deerfield have learned their lesson, too.”

Hoatson was accompanied by Bill Nash of Ashfield, who survived sexual abuse by priests of the Catholic Church and was supported by Road to Recover.

“I’m glad there’s another settlement for this victim, I know it’s important for victims to have their voice, and I hope they can have some kind of peace for themselves,” Nash said.

He said he hopes other victims will step forward in the wake of the settlement.

“My client should be proud about coming forward, in doing so making the world a safer place for others and for children,” said Garabedian.

Deerfield Academy is also facing other allegations of sexual abuse surrounding Hindle’s time at the school.

He was the focus of a 2013 investigation by Deerfield Academy, after another former student, Whitney Sheppard, alleged he had been molested by Hindle in the early 1980s.

Hindle has not been criminally charged, despite the allegations.

After the investigation the school announced it would review its policies regarding sexual misconduct; it also renamed the Peter G. Hindle Schoolmaster’s Chair, removed his name from the school’s squash facility and forbade the former teacher from attending events on campus.

You can reach Tom Relihan at:
413-772-0261 ext 264
On Twitter, @RecorderTom