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New suit says N.H. prep school 'destroyed' girl after sex assault claims

St. Paul's "toxic" sexual culture was put on trial three years ago after a former senior was charged with raping a freshman.
Image:  St. Paul's School in Concord
The entrance to St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire.Jim Cole / AP file

A former student at the elite St. Paul's boarding school in New Hampshire claims in a federal lawsuit that administrators and others "destroyed" her life after she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and harassed.

St. Paul's in Concord, whose prestigious alumni list includes former Secretary of State John Kerry and Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, was put under a microscope three years ago after a one-time senior, Owen Labrie, was charged with raping a freshman in 2014.

Labrie was acquitted of the most serious charges in 2016, but he was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and other counts.

The student in the new case, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord, was identified only as "Jane Doe." She was recruited as a middle school student, court documents say, and she enrolled in September 2012 at 13 on a partial scholarship.

After she was assaulted and harassed several times by a classmate identified as "M.L." that fall and winter, the student reported what happened to an administrator, who did nothing, the suit alleges.

A woman described in the suit as a counselor accused the student of "making up a story about being raped," according to the documents, and worked with another administrator to identify her "as having a problem 'stealing' her wealthy classmate's clothing."

"Overwhelmed by trauma and [St. Paul's] failure to do anything about it," the student began to "engage in increasingly risky behavior," the suit says.

Administrators forced her out in 2014, the documents say. She graduated from high school after "extensive" psychiatric treatment on a "home and hospital" program, the suit says, but she has been unable to enroll in college.

In a letter Friday, the president of the school's board of trustees, Archibald Cox, said the board was just learning about the "serious" allegations, which included failing to report the assaults.

"We take these allegations very seriously, but do not know whether they are accurate or not," he said. "In my experience this administration has taken all reporting obligations seriously and has fulfilled them."

Michael Hirschfeld, St. Paul's rector and one of the administrators who the suit alleges forced the student to leave the school, said in a statement that he "vehemently refutes" not reporting an alleged sexual assault.

The statement did not address other allegations in the suit.

The suit, which seeks at least $450,000 in damages, alleges that St. Paul's intentionally inflicted emotional distress, was negligent and violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits schools that receive government funding from engaging in sexual discrimination.