Choate Failed to Report Sexual Misconduct to Authorities for Decades: Report

An elite Connecticut boarding school failed to report years of sexual misconduct between teachers and students to the Department of Children and Families — despite a legal obligation to do so — a new report says.

Choate Rosemary Hall, which boasts alumni such as Ivanka Trump, John F. Kennedy, and Michael Douglas, released the report following an internal investigation, publicly revealing allegations of sexual misconduct as far back as the early 1960s — before The Choate School, and Rosemary Hall merged.

No current teachers or students are implicated in the report.

However, the 48-page document names at least 12 former instructors who allegedly engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with students. Many of these teachers were allowed to remain on campus to complete the school year or longer tenures as Choate Rosemary Hall kept the allegations of misconduct quiet, according to the report.

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The report noted a number of catalysts for the investigation, including two graduates who told the school in 2013 that they had experienced inappropriate behavior. It also cited Boston Globe inquiries in 2016 about past incidences of sexual misconduct at Choate Rosemary Hall. The Globe published a series about abuses at New England schools and contacted Choate again later the same year.

"The reporter shared, in part, a report from Cheyenne Montgomery (Student 18) that two of those teachers had sexual intercourse with her while she was a student in the early 1990s," the report says.

Nine days after Montgomery went public with her account in an article for the Globe, the school hired Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling LLP to conduct the investigation.

Image: Evening at Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, April 13, 2017.
Evening at Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, April 13, 2017. Choate trustees acknowledged on Thursday that at least 12 former faculty members had committed acts of sexual abuse, and that for years the school participate in keeping reports of sexual misconduct from getting out. Jessica Hill / Redux Pictures

The allegations range from descriptions of teachers kissing and groping students to details of a teacher sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female student in October of 1999.

Twenty-four victims are anonymously documented in the report, and out of 22,187 people notified by email and letters, 42 came forward with information. The notification was sent to "current, former, and life trustees; current faculty, administrators, and staff; parents of current students; and parents of alumni who remain involved with the school in some way." An announcement was also posted to Choate's website.

"Our mandate was factual reporting, not legal analysis, and we have not analyzed whether Choate or any individuals affiliated, or previously affiliated, with the school violated any laws," the report explains.

One of the students documented in the report said in 1982 she contracted herpes from English teacher Fredric Lyman, who declined to comment to the investigators.

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Another instance described the alleged rape of a student during a school trip to Costa Rica by teacher Jaime Rivera-Murillo. Rivera-Murillo, who denied the allegations to investigators, was terminated just days after the incident.

The report claims he told administrators he had no recollection of the assault, saying, “If I did something that bad, I honestly would remember it.” NBC News could not reach Rivera-Murillo for comment.

The alleged rape was never reported to the authorities by the school, despite a legal obligation to do so.

Until 2010 — when claims were made that English and Latin teacher, Athletic Director and housing adviser Charles Timlin kissed and groped one student and kissed and talked inappropriately to another — none of the allegations of sexual misconduct were reported to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Lyman and Timlin did not respond to NBC News' requests for comment. Montgomery also did not respond to a request for comment.

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However, Connecticut law says that “mandated reporters” must report to the DCF if there is “reasonable cause to suspect” that a person under the age of 18 “is in a condition resulting in maltreatment, such as, but not limited to … sexual molestation or exploitation, deprivation of necessities, emotional maltreatment or cruel punishment.”

That law, according to the report, has required reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect to the DCF since 1965.

The definition of “mandated reporters” has included teachers since 1967. The definition currently includes school administrators, coaches, guidance counselors, and other faculty members. It is unclear when these definitions were added.

After making a report to the DCF in 2010, Choate Rosemary Hall made a number of reports to the department about past allegations, but many of those were rejected due to the fact the victims were no longer minors, according to the document.

The 2010 DCF investigation took issue with with how the school handled the reports of Timlin’s sexual misconduct.

Initially, former Headmaster Edward Shanahan agreed to let Timlin stay at Choate Rosemary Hall, according to the report, if he moved out of the girls’ dorm and met with a psychiatrist. He was also made to sign a resignation letter to be used if another allegation surfaced.

When the second student found out that Timlin would be returning to school, she informed her parents of the alleged misconduct. After the student’s father contacted the school, Shanahan contacted the DCF, the report says.

“[The DCF investigation] also described ‘a concern that school personnel did not report the alleged abuse to the Department within the 12 hours they are required to do by law,’” the report says. “Further, it stated that Shanahan ‘was offered mandated reporter training for himself and Choate staff members by the Department,’ and ‘strongly recommended’ that school staff ‘receive mandated reporter information related to the ramifications of failing to file a report [of] suspected abuse/neglect within the timeframes required by law.’”

The report notes that sexual relationships between students and faculty have been prohibited at the school since 1976 and, in 1991, Choate adopted an anti-harassment and discrimination policy. This was updated to include “sexual harassment” specifically in 1993.

“On behalf of Choate Rosemary Hall, we profoundly apologize. The conduct of these adults violated the foundation of our community: the sacred trust between students and the adults charged with their care. We honor and thank the survivors of sexual misconduct who came forward,” Choate Rosemary Hall wrote in a statement about the report.

The school’s statement goes on to say it hopes the transparency of the self-conducted investigation will allow the community to address adult sexual misconduct.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families and the Connecticut Attorney General did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.