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NEW HAMPSHIRE: Parents Shocked at St. Paul's Hazing

Lesbian chaplain contributed to problems, they say

Special Report

By David W. Virtue

CONCORD, NH (9/24/2004)--Parents of a teenager who sent their daughter to St. Paul's, an elite Episcopal prep school, said they were not surprised at recent hazing story revelations.

"Our daughter went to this school for a year and a half in the early 90's and we were oblivious to the environment into which we sent her. A counselor on her hall told us that there had been seven suicide attempts during her sophomore year there."

"We were shocked at what our daughter encountered at St. Paul's. You name it-- the kids were trying it, and there was little or no supervision of the coed dorms. The Episcopal chaplain was a lesbian who was very interested in "sharing the pain" of the students. When we finally became enlightened about what was going on, we answered a distress call from our daughter and got her out of there."

The parents who asked not be named, said it took her a good while [for her] to recover from the stresses to which she had been subjected there.

"Thanks be to God she did. My wife and I both attended single sex Episcopal boarding schools in the early 60's when they really were Christian environments with Godly leadership, Bible study as part of the Curriculum; prayer and hymns every day, -- not perfect by any means, but very safe and a monitored situation for the students. All that has disappeared."

"I am not in any way shocked to hear about this incident. I am only surprised it has taken this long for something public to come out. That school and most of these high pressured, no supervision boarding schools are truly toxic environments for the students."

Five senior girls at St. Paul's School were suspended for a term and 10 others were suspended for two weeks after hazing 12 new students in two dormitories, according to an employee of St. Paul's who asked not to be named.

The story was broken by the Concord newspapers.

'The seniors woke the new girls up in the middle of the night, forcing them to simulate oral sex with bananas and answer sexually explicit questions, the employee said. St. Paul's determined the hazing was more severe in one of the dorms, Kittredge II, where five of the senior girls lived, than the other dorm, Ford," they told a reporter with the Concord Monitor.

"Some of the freshmen girls whom St. Paul's School officials say were hazed told the dean of students they were willing participants in a nighttime initiation activity," said the newspaper report.

"We thought this night was a great way to get to know the seniors, as our leaders, and don't think that anything should have been done differently," the letter read. "Please take the fact that all of us decided to participate and did it comfortably into your disciplinary decision."

In their letter, the Ford freshmen relayed their version of the night, saying they had voluntarily gone with the seniors to the dorm basement, were given nicknames and played a truth-telling game called "Never have I ever."

"We were given candy and had a choice of whipped cream and a banana and a devil dog," the freshmen wrote. "Again, all of the new students wanted to participate and eat their food, meaning that no one was forced." The letter was signed Third Formers of Ford House, making it unclear whether all or just some of the freshmen wrote it.

St. Paul's reported the hazing to the Concord Police Department last week in accordance with state law, and the police are investigating. Hazing has been considered a crime in New Hampshire since 1993.

"It sounded like the Abu Ghraib of independent schools," said a former St. Paul's faculty member to Kathryn Marchocki a reporter with the Union Leader Staff.

Seniors allegedly used an object to simulate oral sex on the younger girls in one incident and asked them sexually explicit questions in the other.

In a 2½-page letter to parents, Bishop Craig Anderson, the school principal, defended his decision not to expel the seniors, some of whom legally are adults. "Some have asked why I decided to allow the sixth formers (seniors) involved to return at all to the school when I have for so long said, and continue to say, that we will not tolerate hazing at St. Paul's School," Anderson said.

But Bishop Anderson's personal theology and moral values are as loose as a bucket of bolts and then some. He was one of 60 revisionist bishops who were present at the consecration of V. Gene Robinson. He is considered a moral role model for the students of St. Paul's, not to mention the newly anointed bishop of NH. The school boasts 500 students with 100 faculty.

But the school has come in for criticism before. An article in the Wall Street Journal blasted the bishop and his salary with a headline Screaming; "At Elite Prep School, Parents Do the Math. Rector's $524,000 Pay Package Has Parents Outraged."

The journal said that Anderson made $524,000 in salary, benefits and deferred compensation -- more than most college presidents which did not include a seven-bedroom, 14,062-square-foot mansion and a $32,000 stipend for his wife to assist in his official duties.

The compensation package sparked an ugly fight at this genteel boarding school, where gossip usually revolves around the crew team's chances in the Royal Henley Regatta and who will get into Harvard. Some alumni, parents and donors, outraged at Mr. Anderson's salary campaigned for his ouster. They are also pushing for new faces on the 24-member board of trustees, which sets his pay.

Mr. Anderson "is an overcompensated, underwhelming bishop," says Albert F. Gordon, a former trustee who has donated more than $500,000 to the school. The headmaster, he says, "has got to go."

Rancor has marked both sides, with the rector's defenders implying that critics should withdraw their children from the school, and dissidents suggesting that Mr. Anderson's hefty compensation is unseemly for a man of the cloth.

Sitting on 2,000 acres on the outskirts of Concord, 147-year-old St. Paul's boasts such alumni as "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. The senator's wife, ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry, is a former St. Paul's trustee.

Critics contend they've conducted informal surveys of other schools that show the St. Paul's administrators aren't in high demand. They say many longtime teachers have left under the current leadership.

The Dean of Students Doug Dickson would not talk about the letter from the freshmen or how it played into the school's decision to suspend the senior girls.

"We followed internal procedures and worked through the situation until we saw fit," he said. "We had to weigh a variety of factors in coming to that conclusion," said the newspaper report.

Concord police are attempting to interview the alleged victims; some alumni and former faculty likened the sexual nature of the two alleged incidents to prison abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"I'm very curious what goes on in people's minds that they allow this to be a tradition, especially with the whole sexual humiliation aspect to this," said Holloman, a Los Angeles screenwriter.

"It's the same Abu Ghraib amoral lack of understanding. It's the same thing that allows these girls to go later, 'Oh, so sorry. We didn't understand. We didn't know.' But why not?" Holloman said.

Sanchez, who taught Spanish at St. Paul's for seven years and also served as director of intercultural affairs until she left in 1998, said female students sometimes engaged in name calling and isolation to haze their younger peers, but she never before heard of females becoming involved in "physical abuse."

"In my view, this is revelatory of something very wrong in the school, in the administration," added Sanchez, who now teaches at an independent Episcopal school in Florida.

Sanchez is disappointed in the penalties Anderson imposed, adding many current faculty also are dissatisfied.

"They should have been expelled from that school," Sanchez told the Concord Monitor.


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