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Editorial: Trust and Deerfield Academy

Deerfield Academy says it maintains a “zero tolerance policy” on what it calls inappropriate teacher-student relationships — and communicates that often to its staff. In a Jan. 28 post on its website, the school makes clear it will investigate any report that the policy has been violated, regardless of when.

The school announced last week it is reviewing a former student’s claim that a math teacher, Peter Hindle, engaged in sexual behavior with him in the 1980s. It said the teacher, who retired in 2000, admitted that sexual contact to the school, though it has declined to provide details. While Hindle declined several requests for comment, he did tell the Associated Press he provided backrubs to students, and in response to questions from the Boston Globe said: “To me, it’s all how something is interpreted.”

If and when the case becomes a criminal matter — and it appears not to be one yet — the question of whether the contact was sexual will have to be answered.

For now, Deerfield is taking needed steps to make clear that even 30-year-old incidents damage its reputation and injure members of its community. In the open letter, the school’s trustee chairman and head of school write that “there is no greater violation of our values than broken trust between student and teacher.”

The school wants to hear from anyone who experienced that violation of trust. It is offering counseling. While this may seem an old and cold case, we think the school’s bold actions will help safeguard students today. Because of the publicity this has received, it may even discourage potential violators beyond its campus.

Warren’s local address

By promptly opening an office in Springfield, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has fulfilled a pledge to respond to the needs of western Massachusetts residents. The senator last week described the office, at 1550 Main St., as a good first stop for anyone who has a beef with the federal government. The office is staffed by Northampton native Jeremiah Thompson, who now lives in Springfield, and by Everett Handford of Wilbraham. Another regular is Roger Lau, the University of Massachusetts graduate who is Warren’s state director.

In an email to the Gazette, Warren called the office a place “where people can go to have a conversation about what’s happening in Washington.” Well, senator, those chats might take a while. To reach the office, call (413) 788-2690.

Expect some turnover in this same building. Sen. John Kerry, who resigned his Senate seat Friday to become secretary of state, kept an office there. The tenant occupying Warren’s suite before her? It was Sen. Scott Brown, who is not going after another Senate seat right now.

Payouts past, future

A bankruptcy filing by the New England Compounding Center suggests the many people seeking compensation from the pharmacy for contaminated products will get little. Looking back over the past year, though, the company’s owners did pretty well.

In its final months, the pharmacy paid $16 million to its owners, mostly before their company was linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis cases around the country.

The money had been coming in fast, for the pharmacy’s sales, including a steroid used to treat back pain, were growing. They climbed from about $20 million in 2010 to $32 million in 2012. And that wasn’t even a whole year of sales. The firm went belly up not long after it was found to be the source of the contaminated drug, use of which is believed to be responsible for 44 deaths and as many as 600 illnesses. Inspectors who reviewed conditions inside its Framingham plant found sanitation problems. The pharmacy is also believed to have distributed suspect batches of drugs before confirming their safety.

These woeful practices must be further investigated and the company’s owners, including majority shareholder Carla Conigliaro, who received $8.7 million in the company’s last year, be held accountable.

By the time the pharmacy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it was the target of 130 lawsuits. The filing listed $1.6 million in assets and $885,000 in liabilities. Then there are the future court judgments. Can past profits be clawed back?

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