St. George’s Administrator on Leave after Allegations of ‘boundary Issues’
By Bella Englis
April 8, 2016
|Robert Weston has been on leave since January.|
A top administrator at the embattled St. George’s School has been on paid leave since January pending an investigation of allegations about “boundary issues” with students, headmaster Eric Peterson and board chair Leslie Heaney told the St. George’s community in an e-mail on Wednesday.
Robert Weston, the associate head for external affairs, served along with his wife as longtime “dorm parents” in a girls’ dormitory. “The Board of Trustees and the Administration were advised of second-hand allegations concerning Mr. Weston observing appropriate boundaries with students,” the letter said. “These allegations relate specifically to his work as a dorm parent at St. George’s in the late 1990s.”
Through his lawyer, Weston rejected the allegations and expressed frustration with what he had thought would be a brief leave. Lawyer Paul V. Kelly told the Globe that Weston “served as dorm parent at the school for 16 years — without a single student complaint or expression of concern.”
“He was a loyal and good soldier for the school and agreed to what he understood would likely be a very short period of administrative leave while the independent investigator reviewed the specious allegation against him. It has now been four months, and unfortunately he is still in limbo,” Kelly said.
Since December, more than 40 alumni of the elite Episcopal prep school in Middletown, R.I., have told lawyers that they were victims of sexual abuse there from faculty or other students, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s. In January, Martin Murphy was appointed by the board and the victims to investigate abuse allegations.
“Since the independent investigation was beginning at this same time, we asked Mr. Murphy and his team ... to include [the Weston] matter in their inquiry,” Peterson and Heaney wrote in their e-mail. “As always, our paramount concern is to ensure that St. George’s is a healthy and safe environment for all. It is important to note, however, that we also believe in due process.”
Weston, who has been at the school for 26 years, has also served as a classroom teacher and associate head of school. His wife, Ann, is events coordinator in the development office. He was a dorm parent in Auchincloss Dormitory from 1990 until 2006, when he and his wife moved off campus.
Kelly said Weston is the victim of “a several-year-old issue originating from a disgruntled former faculty member.”
“My understanding of the allegation is that,while he was serving as a dorm parent, in the 1999-2000 school year, he failed to abide by appropriate privacy or boundary” guidelines, Kelly said. “That he inadvertently may have seen one of the students changing or coming out of the shower wrapped in a towel. Mr. Weston says that is ridiculous.”
Kelly said Weston told him: “For 16 years, my house was such that I came to the (dorm) doorway that immediately had a shower room on the right. I always told the girls, close the door, close the door. The notion that I was somehow intentionally lurking trying to see girls changing is ludicrous, and there was never a complaint from them along those lines.’” Peterson was told of the allegations against Weston, Kelly said, within the last couple of years.
Attorney Carmen Durso, who along with Eric MacLeish is representing some of the St. George’s victims, said they turned over complaints about Weston to the school’s attorneys in January.
A year ago, St. George’s launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by staff and students at the hilltop school after pressure from a MacLeish client who says she was raped by the athletic trainer in the late 1970s. The investigator, Will Hannum, was dismissed in early January when it emerged that he is not only the law partner of the school’s then-counsel but also her husband.
Kelly said that Weston spoke to Hannum, whose investigation resulted in a December report documenting 26 victims of sexual abuse at the school. Weston has not yet spoken to the new investigator, Murphy.
Bella English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org