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St. Paul's emails students at prestigious summer studies program a sex abuse notice

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 11. 2018 9:42PM

Reader Poll

  • In the wake of its repeated sex scandals, do you still consider St. Paul's School a 'prestigious' institution?
  • Yes
  • 21%
  • No
  • 71%
  • Ambivalent
  • 8%
  • Total Votes: 1479

CONCORD — Scrutinized for the past two years about sexual abuse of its prep school students, St. Paul’s School has reached out to New Hampshire high school students who participated in its prestigious summer program.

Last Friday, an email went out to alumni of the school’s Advanced Studies Program, making them aware of counseling opportunities, an opportunity to obtain monetary damages “outside the court system,” and the school’s internal reporting system for cases of sexual abuse.

For decades, ASP has provided a month-long program limited to New Hampshire students between their junior and senior years. They live in student housing and participate in academic and sports programs. Two-hundred forty are enrolled this summer.

This week, a Manchester lawyer said he filed a claim on Monday with St. Paul’s on behalf of a 1967 participant in the ASP program.

Peter Hutchins, who represented many victims in the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal, said the faculty member used admission to Harvard University as leverage to initiate sexual abuse of the student, who attended Monadnock Regional High School.

Last year, his client contacted the independent law firm hired by St. Paul’s to investigate allegations; the man also contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General to report the abuse, Hutchins said. Last Friday, St. Paul’s sent a letter to ASP alumni informing them about reporting abuse and their independent claims system.

Hutchins said he believes the letter was the school’s first attempt to contact ASP alumni.

“That was one of the things that (the client) was aggravated about. The ASP were treated like second-class citizens,” said Hutchins, who himself attended ASP in 1975.

But a spokesman for the school said ASP alumni were first notified in May 2017, when the school issued its Casner & Edwards report.

“We e-mailed to all ASP alumni for whom we have an e-mail address, some 4,200, to ensure that all of our alumni have the same access to resources and support should they need it,” wrote spokesman Sarah Aldag in an email.

Hutchins said his client was abused by Jose A.G. “Senor” Ordonez.

Ordonez, a history teacher and archivist, was banned from campus in 2001 after acknowledging multiple allegations of sexual improprieties to school officials, according to the 2017 Casner & Edwards report into sexual misconduct at St. Paul’s.

St. Paul’s provided Ordonez with an annuity that allowed him to move out of a school-funded condominium and move to Miami. He died in 2008.

Hutchins said St. Paul’s faculty often taught the summer ASP classes, so it’s likely they would turn toward the summer students when the traditional students left campus.

“That would be their pattern if they were serial abusers. I kind of think it would be easier,” he said.

On Friday, ASP Director Michael Ricard and Overseers Board Chairman Jay Surdukowski sent an email to ASP alumni detailing “new resources” for ASP students who have been sexually abused by faculty or staff.

The letter links to a June 26 letter from St. Paul’s to the school alumni. It lists several resources available to victims:

• A St. Paul’s funded effort to pay for those who want financial help for therapy. Sandra Matheson, the former coordinator of victim services for the New Hampshire Attorney General, is administering the fund. The national Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network can be used to obtain sexual assault services. Neither Matheson nor RAINN will share any information with St. Paul’s.

• A “streamlined and confidential” method to provide victim compensation “outside the court system.” An independent arbitrator, retired Massachusetts Judge Nancy Holtz, will confer with victims about their claims, and St. Paul’s will not be present.

• An Alumni Doorways Initiative, established by school alumni, to “collectively process experiences of harm done to individuals ... and craft a multi-layered response.” A service of repentance and healing is anticipated for the spring in the school chapel.

• Casner & Edwards remains available to investigate and report sexual abuse by faculty or staff.

“The board of trustees and the school’s leadership are committed to providing support and care to those who have been negatively impacted by past wrongs with sensitivity and transparency while respecting any alumni preference for confidentiality,” the June 26 letter reads.

Hutchins said anyone with claims of abuse should contact the New Hampshire Attorney General, which is investigating St. Paul’s School for its actions in response to sexual abuse. And he thinks they should get a lawyer.

“I certainly would never advise a victim to enter into such a system unrepresented — particularly given the lack of specifics about how the process works, the evaluation criteria, the compensation parameters, the legal ramifications or waivers, if any,” he wrote in an email.

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