Deerfield Academy reaches six-figure settlement with sexual abuse victim

Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of New Jersey-based nonprofit Road to Recovery, speaks to the news media Wednesday morning announcing the settlement of a sexual abuse claim between a former student and Deerfield Academy.

Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of New Jersey-based nonprofit Road to Recovery, speaks to the news media Wednesday morning announcing the settlement of a sexual abuse claim between a former student and Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of New Jersey-based nonprofit Road to Recovery, speaks to the news media Wednesday morning announcing the settlement of a sexual abuse claim between a former student and Deerfield Academy.

Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of New Jersey-based nonprofit Road to Recovery, speaks to the news media Wednesday morning announcing the settlement of a sexual abuse claim between a former student and Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Deerfield Academy

Deerfield Academy STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 10-19-2023 8:36 AM

DEERFIELD — Following a June press conference seeking to “validate” a sexual abuse claim against former Deerfield Academy teacher Peter G. Hindle, the lawyer representing the victim announced Wednesday they have reached a settlement with the school.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney representing victims of sexual abuse, said the school had come to a civil settlement in the “low six figures” with an unidentified victim who was sexually abused at least 20 times from 1989 to 1990 in his dorm room by Hindle, who taught at the school for more than 40 years and died in 2017.

He said Hindle would climb through the victim’s window to gain access to the student, who reported the abuse to his counselor, though it continued afterward. In June, Garabedian said the former student is now around 50 years old and lives on the West Coast.

“My client, who was 16 years old at the time, was a resident of Deerfield Academy, who thought he would be safe at Deerfield Academy and get a good education,” Garabedian said. “The survivor was courageous and brave and shows an enormous amount of strength in coming forward and reporting sexual abuse.”

Jessica Day, Deerfield Academy’s spokesperson, said the school settled the claim and has been implementing stringent policies over the last decade to protect those on campus.

“We have proactively implemented numerous and overlapping safeguards to protect students, including protocols for reporting boundary violations and the careful, judicious investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct,” Day said.

Those safeguards, she added, include regular review of policies and training for staff and students.

“In consultation with outside experts, we regularly review our policies and procedures regarding adult boundaries and sexual misconduct,” Day said, “and we conduct training for all employees and students to ensure that they have the knowledge and support to identify and report inappropriate behavior of any kind.”

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Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of the New Jersey-based nonprofit Road to Recovery, which assists sexual abuse survivors, hosted Wednesday’s press conference on Deerfield Academy’s campus, while Garabedian spoke via Zoom.

“We can confidently say that Deerfield Academy was not protecting children,” Hoatson said. “We know there are more victims and so we urge everyone who has been a victim to end the secrecy, because secrecy kills.”

Garabedian has represented at least four other students who reported sexual abuse at the hands of Hindle. In July, Garabedian also announced the settlement of a credible sexual abuse claim with longtime Deerfield Academy Athletics Department employee Norman Therien.

Both Hoatson and Garabedian said the state could better protect children and other survivors by further removing constraints on the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse lawsuits.

The current limitation to file a lawsuit in Massachusetts is 35 years or within seven years of the time the victim discovered an emotional or psychological injury was caused by the act, according to the state’s website. In contrast, crimes like murder, Garabedian noted, have no statute of limitations attached.

“Amending the statute of limitations will serve as a deterrent,” Garabedian said. “Institutions, supervisors, pedophiles know they’ll be more susceptible to the civil justice system.”

“Anytime a victim comes forward that he or she has been sexually abused, he or she should be able to take his or her perpetrator to court,” Hoatson added. “We want accountability and we want the laws to be on the side of the victims.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.