The case for institutional accountability

The case for institutional accountability in reporting child abuse


Abuse alleged in 2004 at St. George’s  — Boston Globe, Jan. 23rd, 2016

“Alumnus and former school trustee Dan Brewster says he was informed of a staff member’s purported misconduct toward multiple students in 2004. He told school officials but never heard back from (Head of School) Peterson, despite repeated attempts to reach him.

“It’s disgusting,” Brewster said. “It was abundantly clear from the outset that the school had no intention of informing parents, tending to the needs of victims, informing law enforcement, of doing anything other than protecting what they viewed as the importance of the institution.”

Lawyer Eric MacLeish said Thursday that Peterson was required to report the allegations.

“In 2004, the law had been clear for 30 years that if there is any suspicion of child abuse, it had to be reported within 24 hours. If you fail to report it, there are criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.”

The standard for reporting, said MacLeish, who has represented dozens of victims of both school and clergy sexual abuse, “is much lower than criminal prosecution. It’s reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect occurred.”

“It is not the role of the school to conduct a child abuse investigation and then determine whether or not it can be supported. That is the job of child protective services. . . . As I’m sure you’re aware, the reporting requirement is immediate and mandatory.”


Why should any institution, much less a school dedicated to children, be allowed to cover up reports of abuse and create more victims?  Non-guardian abuse gets a pass in some states – what about guardian abuse?  One unknown predator may be an accident – multiple abusers protected by cover up is a crime. Horace Mann, St. Georges school, Yeshiva High school, Poly Prep, Woodward, Kamehameha, Indian Mountain, St. Francis, Marborough, Hotchkiss, Danville CT, Solebury, Potomac, Millbrook, American School in Japan, Southbank, Episcopal Academy AU, plus many schools in the UK, Scotland, Ireland, France.

“A reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred” is the standard, not videotapes. Repeatedly, institutions decide not to alert authorities or parents, decide not to  speak again with victims who report abuse or signs, fail to document accounts, don’t counsel those harmed, warn teachers not to speak up, and decide not to search for other victims in order to discourage reporting and hide accounts. We should not need any more evidence to recognize the problem and establish a National Commission on the federal level in the U.S. to insure child safety.