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DA opens investigation into Miss Hall’s School teacher accused of preying on student

Matthew Rutledge resigned last month after a former student reported him to the school for allegedly sexually abusing and exploiting her.
Miss Hall's School in Pittsfield, Mass.
Miss Hall's School in Pittsfield, Mass.Google Maps

The Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts confirmed Thursday that it is investigating a former student’s allegations of “child sex abuse” at the hands of a teacher at the private Miss Hall’s School.

The development came after Matthew Rutledge, 62, resigned amid allegations that he groomed at least three students for sex during the 30-plus years he taught at the venerable boarding and day school for girls in Pittsfield.

“There is an investigation underway into one allegation,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office said. “But I can’t say anything beyond that because this is an active investigation.”

The spokesperson confirmed that the investigation is into allegations brought by former student Melissa Fares, who reported Rutledge to the school administration for allegedly sexually abusing and exploiting her when she was a student and after she graduated in 2010.

The state’s department of children’s services confirmed Thursday that it was also investigating the allegations.

“The Department of Children and Families received a report and is investigating in collaboration with law enforcement,” spokesperson Andrea Grossman said.

Fares and the two other former students who’ve come forward with allegations against Rutledge are “very happy that this is being investigated," said Eric MacLeish, a lawyer who is representing the three women.

MacLeish declined to go into specifics about the cases and said Fares is not ready to talk publicly about Rutledge.

Rutledge, who mainly taught history at the school, was placed on administrative leave on March 27 after Fares came forward, and he resigned days later, according to a letter the school sent to alumni on April 3.

Since then, MacLeish said Fares and the two other women have signed “representation agreements” with him and another lawyer working on these cases, Kristin Knuuttila. But they have not yet filed any lawsuits.

MacLeish said he has not yet been in contact with the Berkshire County DA’s office, but said it’s often an uphill battle to get teachers accused of preying on students convicted in Massachusetts.

“In many states, any sex between teachers and students is a crime,” MacLeish said. “We wish that was the case in Massachusetts.”

Julie Heaton, the head of school, said Thursday that “Miss Hall’s School has been in active communication with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, and we will cooperate fully with any investigations."

On Tuesday, Heaton announced the school was “initiating a neutral, external investigation” into the allegations.

Former student Alison Cowie said rumors about Rutledge having inappropriate relationships with students were rife when she attended the school from 1997 to 2000. She said she was glad that law enforcement was investigating, but was dismayed that it took so long for the school to take notice.

“It’s unfortunate that it took the alums getting together and yelling about this to get the right people to notice,” Cowie said.

Fares, a freelance journalist, disclosed that she had reported Rutledge to the school in a post on April 8 to a private Facebook group of Miss Hall’s School alumni.

“I made the decision to report to the School administration that Mr. Rutledge sexually abused and exploited me while I was his student,” Fares wrote. “He used his power and control as a teacher (and as my advisor) to groom me for his own gratification.”

Rutledge has made no public statements since he was banned from the campus and NBC News has not been able to reach him.

“I hope he is held to account for the other girls he hurt,” said another former Miss Hall’s School student, who asked to remain anonymous because she has family ties to the school.