Deerfield Academy says sex allegation by ex-student true
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement issued Saturday that his office will investigate allegations of sexual abuse by former faculty members at Deerfield Academy. Purchase photo reprints »
DEERFIELD — Officials at Deerfield Academy say their investigation into a former student’s recent allegation of sexual contact in the 1980s by a popular math teacher leaves “no question” that the former teacher engaged in sexual activity with him.
School officials, in a statement released this weekend on the academy’s website, said former teacher Peter Hindle, who retired in 2000, admitted to school investigators at least one sexual encounter with the student. The student in question claimed he had eight separate sexual encounters with Hindle.
“By any measure, Mr. Hindle’s behavior represents an outrageous violation,” school officials said.
In response, Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement that his office will launch its own probe of the case, and that the office also is ready to help any other alleged victims of abuse from Deerfield Academy who come forward.
“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 investigations,” Sullivan said.
The report at Deerfield Academy follows a previous statement from the school in late January that officials had begun investigating Hindle after a former male student told them he had had sexual contact with Hindle during the 1980s.
Contacted Sunday by the Gazette at his home in Dartmouth, Hindle, 78, declined to comment. “I’m sorry — my lawyer has said I can’t say a word to anybody about this,” he said.
Hindle, who taught at Deerfield from 1956 to 2000, did tell the Boston Globe in January that he had given some students back rubs over the years. But the Deerfield Academy statement, which is signed by board of trustees president Philip Greer and Head of School Margarita Curtis, said Hindle provided much more explicit detail to investigators that “in no conceivable way could ... be described as a simple ‘back rub.’”
Deerfield officials also noted that another former student, who has declined so far to speak with them, complained in the 1980s that Hindle behaved inappropriately toward him when he was at the academy, though Hindle denied any sexual contact with the student when administrators confronted him at the time.
Hindle is not the only former teacher that Deerfield Academy officials allege had sexual contact with former students: They say two other former students have given “direct, independently corroborating accounts” that Bryce Lambert, who retired in 1990 and is now deceased, engaged in sexual conduct with them at some point during his tenure.
“Mr. Lambert is unable to defend himself, but there is sufficient evidence to name him,” school officials said.
In fact, Deerfield officials said administrators in the 1980s and early 2000s should have been more aggressive in looking into allegations of inappropriate behavior by some teachers, and that past protocols for reporting and responding to allegations of such faculty actions were not as strong as they are today, likely leading to some episodes going unreported.
Given that, school officials said, Deerfield Academy wants to offer “an important message” to past, present and prospective students alike: “If you feel you have been treated inappropriately by an adult in our community, it is safe to come forward, regardless of that person’s status or reputation.”
The school’s board of trustees has also decided to strip the names of Hindle and Lambert from a number of campus landmarks, including a squash court, and to forbid Hindle from attending any future campus events.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.