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6 names surface in Phillips Exeter reports

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 08. 2017 12:46AM
Police received reports last year of sexual misconduct involving several current faculty at Phillips Exeter Academy, after the preparatory school and police encouraged such reporting in the wake of an emerging scandal over sexual assaults and reporting failures, according to documents released by prosecutors. 

Police received reports last year of sexual misconduct involving several current faculty at Phillips Exeter Academy, after the preparatory school and police encouraged such reporting in the wake of an emerging scandal over sexual assaults and reporting failures, according to documents released by prosecutors.

The documents include the names of three current Phillips Exeter faculty and three former teachers. None of the six have been previously identified by Phillips Exeter as faculty involved in sexual misconduct.

• A well-known dean is accused of leaving girls’ dormitories early in the morning in 2013. In 2014, he reportedly touched the buttocks of female students as they climbed the academy bell tower.

• A teacher leered at a naked student when he caught her in a boy’s room and also had boys over to his apartment. Those “boundary violations” took place this decade.

• A teacher touched a student’s knee in 1988 and another’s shoulder in 1993, and made inappropriate comments as recently as two years ago.

“Accusations received in 2016 against all three current employees were properly reported to the Exeter Police Department in April and May of 2016. None of them were charged,” said Phillips Exeter spokesman Robin Giampa.

The information is contained in more than 1,000 pages of material that Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway provided in response to a Right-to-Know request filed by the New Hampshire Union Leader in mid-November.

Late Thursday, Conway said she had been in a deposition all day and asked a reporter to email her questions, which she would address today.

The newspaper filed the request to address lingering questions about why Conway dropped a sexual assault charge against an Exeter student; why Conway did not bring charges against two deans for failure to report that alleged assault; and why school minister Robert Thompson remains on unpaid leave.

Last month, Associate Attorney General Jane Young said her office is compiling information to see what action, if any, should be taken. Young spoke after media reported that Conway did not bring charges against Deans A.J. Cosgrove and Melissa Mischke, despite a state police recommendation to do so.

“Our review is still ongoing,” Young said on Thursday.

Not reported to police

The information in the report shows:

• Five New Hampshire State Police troopers in the Major Crime Unit and three Exeter police detectives took part in an investigation into whether Phillips Exeter officials had properly alerted authorities of sexual improprieties involving minors. The state police investigation started in May 2016.

• By June 2016, state police had reviewed 58 tips and determined that Phillips Exeter officials were aware of 17 allegations of sexual or physical abuse that should have been reported to authorities but had not been. Several involved already disclosed cases such as former history teacher Richard Schubart, former admissions officer Arthur Peekel and deceased English teacher George Mangan.

• The girl who made the sexual assault complaint that sparked two investigations, Michaella Henry, changed her story. In October 2015, she told her adviser and Deans Cosgrove and Mischke that senior Chukwudi Ikpeazu gave her a “somewhat sexual” hug, put his hand on her lower back, near her stomach and toward her chest. Another girl made similar allegations at the time. Six months later, Henry claimed the track star touched her buttocks and touched her breast underneath her clothes. He also made her feel as though she could not leave, she said.

• Shortly after the incident, Cosgrove and Mischke chastised Ikpeazu. They asked why he was so desperate to hook up. They told him to resign his position as chapel proctor. “This is classic male predator behavior and you need to see that it ends,” they told him.

• Lawyers for Cosgrove and Mischke prepared a 37-page PowerPoint for Conway’s office to dissuade her from bringing charges. Once the deans learned of the more serious allegations, they took steps to make a report; that was on May 23, 2016. Their lawyers noted that the girl had turned 18 by April and no longer was the subject of the mandatory reporting law.

• On June 1, 2016, Cosgrove acknowledged to Exeter police that Ikpeazu said on April 26, 2016, that he might have brushed the girl’s breasts, which would have been a sexual assault and reportable under state law. “Cosgrove further explained that he couldn’t believe that they didn’t report it. He apologized for not reporting it and indicated that he felt foolish for not doing so,” wrote detective Sgt. Patrick Mulholland.

Ikpeazu case

• In May 2016, a lawyer hired by Phillips Exeter determined that Ikpeazu had touched the girl’s breasts and buttocks, which violated school rules against sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. The lawyer makes no mention of criminal law. The lawyer based the determination on the “preponderance of the evidence,” a standard that does not reach criminal standards of proof.

• School Minister Thompson had encouraged that as an act of reconciliation to the girl, Ikpeazu bake the monkey bread he was known for making. Texts she sent to him include: “Yo are you making monkey bread soon? I need you to send it to the fin-aid office please,” “bread soon? I need you to send it to the fin-aid office please,” “Is it monkey bread day? ... you thought you were slick, huh fam?”

• Two months after the incident, the girl wrote Thompson to say she received her first order of bread. She felt comfortable hanging around with Ikpeazu as he baked it. “I have forgiven him and feel like I have put it behind me.” But her mother is upset over the friendship and wants her to see a therapist, she wrote. Thompson tells her to follow her heart and find a therapist who understands Christian forgiveness. Her mother cares for her, Thompson wrote. He called the girl courageous.

• Her attitude changed in April, after a school play about sexual assault titled “Slut, The Play” retriggered her memories of the October incident. She called Exeter police on April 18, 2016, to report the assault. On May 2, she gave a detailed account of the incident to police.

• This past June, Conway dropped a misdemeanor sexual assault charge against Ikpeazu. Ikpeazu maintained his innocence. He agreed to obtain a psycho-sexual evaluation, stay away from the girl and stay out of trouble. If he complies, within a year prosecutors will agree to wipe the arrest from his record.

Meanwhile, a vocal member of the class of 1975 said the state’s mandatory reporting law is clear. People such as Cosgrove and Mischke should report any complaints of bad behavior and leave it up to police to determine if a crime took place, said Michael Whitfield Jones.

“It seems like an organized effort not to report (the girl’s) case. The question becomes, why?” he said.

Education Public Safety Exeter

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