St. Paul’s School in Concord has settled a lawsuit filed by the parents of former student Chessie Prout, who accused the prep school of not protecting their daughter from sexual assault when she was 15.
According to police records, Owen A. Labrie forced Prout to have sex with him in the school’s center for mathematics and science on May 30, 2014. He got her to meet him there by giving her a “senior salute,” a tradition in which senior boys send younger girls emails to solicit a romantic encounter.
Labrie was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and child endangerment, but was acquitted of rape. He was sentenced to one year in jail in October 2015 and was required to register as a sex offender for life. Judge Larry Smukler told Labrie at the sentencing that he didn’t believe the sex was consensual.
“A child such as the victim is not sufficiently mature to handle a sexual situation with an older person such as yourself. That’s the crime you were convicted of,” Smukler said.
“Never did I imagine that my life would be traumatically transformed into that of a sexual assault survivor as a high school freshman,” Prout wrote in a statement. “What started as me speaking up for myself turned into something bigger: standing up against a 162-year institution with a secret history of rape and cover-up.”
Prout said that she hopes the lawsuit motivated the school to create a culture where student well-being comes first.
The Prout family’s attorney said that the family was glad the legal process was over and that Chessie was excited to return to her advocacy work with other sexual assault victims.
Archibald Cox Jr., president of the Board of Trustees at St. Paul’s referred to the settlement as a “welcomed outcome.”
“We continue to admire Ms. Prout’s courage and commend her efforts surrounding sexual assault prevention,” he wrote.
Labrie is currently appealing his conviction.
This isn’t the first time a school has been sued overs sexual abuse. Last December, the families of 15 girls who were allegedly molested by a teacher’s aide in an Oklahoma school filed a lawsuit against the Perry School District.
The lawsuit claimed the school board failed to protect the elementary students from being sexually abused by 86-year-old Arnold Cowen. It said the school’s former principal, Kenda Miller, told the alleged victims to not report Cowen’s actions because it could get others into trouble.
The lawsuit also accused teacher Jeffrey Sullins of reprimanding a student for writing a note to another student about the alleged sexual abuse.
“Instead of reporting the sexual assaults or informing the victim’s parents, Sullins told Jane Doe, 12, that she was a ‘liar’ and that ‘he believed none of it,'” the lawsuit said.
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