Investigation Finds Phillips Andover Faculty Engaged in Sexual Misconduct With Students

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA (The New York Times)
August 30, 2016

Five former faculty members at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., including a well-known writer, engaged in sexual misconduct with students in the 1970s and ’80s, the head of the school reported on Tuesday. It is the latest in a string of such revelations involving elite prep schools.

Three of the faculty members were identified through an investigation this year, after the school asked former students who had been abused to step forward, the head of school, John Palfrey, wrote in a message to alumni, staff, students and parents. In addition, Mr. Palfrey disclosed that there were “a small number of cases, each dating from the 1980s, in which Phillips Andover previously learned of sexual misconduct or boundary violations by faculty members.”

“In each of these cases, we have notified the relevant state officials,” he wrote, but the cases appear unlikely to result in prosecution. At least one of the former teachers is dead, and Massachusetts law states that for most crimes, a person cannot be charged more than 27 years after the encounter, or until after the victim turns 16.

Accusations have come to light in recent years of sexual abuse of children by adults at Horace Mann School in the Bronx, Fessenden School in Massachusetts, St. George’s School in Rhode Island and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, among others. Some of the accusations have been followed by startling admissions by educators of acts they committed, often decades earlier.

After a spate of revelations and during a broader investigation by The Boston Globe into dozens of prep schools, Andover asked people to pass on information about abuses there. The school hired an outside firm that specializes in such cases, the Sanghavi Law Office, to investigate. Three cases it found were serious enough, Mr. Palfrey wrote, that they warranted going public with the faculty members’ names.

The law firm “concluded that Alexander Theroux, formerly a writer-in-residence, engaged in sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1970s,” Mr. Palfrey wrote. “During this investigative process, the school received multiple concerns related to Mr. Theroux’s behavior toward students. Mr. Theroux has denied these allegations.”

Investigators also found that “Stephen Wicks, while a Phillips Academy faculty member, engaged in sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1980s,” Mr. Palfrey continued.

Mr. Wicks and Mr. Theroux, both in their 70s, did not return calls seeking comment. The school said that both men had been barred from campus and from Andover events, and that Mr. Wicks, a longtime art teacher who retired in 2010, had been stripped of his emeritus status.

Mr. Theroux, whose short tenure at Andover ended in the early 1980s, is a novelist, poet and essayist who has taught at prestigious colleges and universities.

The third former teacher who was named was H. Schuyler Royce, who died 25 years ago. The investigation revealed that Mr. Royce “engaged in multiple incidents of sexual misconduct toward a student in the 1980s,” Mr. Palfrey wrote, and raised “additional concerns related to Mr. Royce’s behavior toward students.”

Mr. Palfrey raised the prospect of more evidence coming to light and more findings being made public.

“For those who have suffered past abuse, the trustees and I hope that this process provides, at the very least, acknowledgment of, and apology for, the harm they have endured,” he wrote.