Ray Duckler: Rape trial forces boarding schools to look in the mirror

Concord Monitor

Monitor staff
Saturday, August 29, 2015

During the Watergate investigation 41 years ago, Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee, wondering about Richard Nixon’s role in the scandal, asked, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Baker’s succinctly worded curiosity has resonated through the decades, and it remains relevant as we examine the nationally covered rape trial that ended in superior court Friday.

What did those in charge at St. Paul’s School, trusted with teenage students at a college-like campus, know about something called the “senior salute,” and when did they know it?

Owen Labrie, charged with raping a 15-year-old St. Paul’s School freshman while he was an 18-year-old senior, was acquitted of the most serious charges, aggravated felonious sexual assault.

He was, however, found guilty of statutory rape because of the victim’s age and a felony charge of using a computer to lure a minor.

At least one school official, we heard, knew something was going on, before the national media descended on the city to cover what’s been called a culture of sexual misconduct.

“I came to understand the senior salute as one element of a larger vernacular the kids at St. Paul’s used to describe a wide range of relations between students, some of which, I would say, included sexual (activity),” Chad Green, dean of students at the school, testified this week.

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