An elite New Hampshire boarding school alerted alumni this week that a longtime teacher has admitted to two cases of sexual misconduct with students in the 1970s and 1980s.
Phillips Exeter Academy on Wednesday sent an email to alumni saying Rick Schubart acknowledged the misconduct in both cases, which were reported in 2011 and 2015. Schubart, who taught history at the school for 38 years, was forced to retire and leave campus housing in 2011. It wasn’t until the 2015 report that he was stripped of his emeritus status and banned from campus, said the letter, signed by Principal Lisa MacFarlane and Board of Trustees President Eunice Johnson Panetta.
At least one of the reports was made under the tenure of principal Thomas Hassan, husband of New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who’s running for U.S. Senate.
Exeter police said they determined the statute of limitations had expired in both cases. They said the victim who came forward in 2011 was 18 at the time of the misconduct.
The revelations make Exeter, which counts among its alumni Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, just the latest elite prep school to grapple with allegations of sexual abuse. St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island, has been rocked by allegations 40 or more former students were raped or sexually abused by staff or fellow students between the 1970s and the 2000s. And a graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, was convicted in August of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman in what prosecutors linked to a competition known as the Senior Salute, in which seniors seek to have sex with underclassmen.
The email to Exeter alumni, apparently prompted by inquiries from The Boston Globe, said the school immediately reported the allegations to authorities and investigated the claims.
Still, MacFarlane acknowledged in a statement the school’s response was insufficient and apologized. She said the school’s primary focus after the first report was to protect the privacy of the victim.
“Looking back, our focus should have better balanced transparency and accountability with the interest of the broader community in mind,” the statement said.
Schubart did not answer calls to his home on Thursday. The student newspaper, The Exonian, reported at the time of his retirement that he decided to step down in December 2011, in the middle of the academic year, for unspecified “personal and medical reasons.”
Among Schubart’s responsibilities at the school was being residential director for its intern program in Washington, the student newspaper reported. Besides his work at Exeter, he has served as executive director for The Association of Boarding Schools and chairman of the board of the Federation of American and International Schools.
The Association of Boarding Schools honored him in 2012 with an annual leadership award, and he continued his involvement in other educational endeavors, including on the board of a charter school, after his forced retirement in 2011.
Thomas Hassan, principal from 2009 to June 2015, said in a written statement issued by Exeter on Thursday that the school received the 2011 report after he sent an email to the community that year with the goal of encouraging reports of misconduct following cases of sexual abuse at Pennsylvania State and Syracuse universities.
He called the report about Schubart “one of the most heartbreaking situations I dealt with as principal.”
“As anyone who has encountered an incident of sexual abuse can attest, it is often a challenge to balance the privacy and wishes of the victim with the utmost need to protect the community,” he said. “We sought that balance to the best of our ability at the time.”
It was unclear whether the victims had asked for their reports to be kept secret. A school spokeswoman, Robin Giampa, said she didn’t have that information and the details of any case are private.
Giampa didn’t address questions about whether Schubart continued with campus activities after 2011 or whether other schools, potential employers or other ventures were alerted about the reported misconduct.
The email to alumni said both victims were now supportive of the school sharing the information.
Exeter has around 1,000 students from 34 countries in grades 9-12. It has a $1.2 billion endowment and will charge $48,550 per year in tuition and boarding costs next year.
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