St. Paul's Grads Speak Out About the School's Rape Trial

By Carson Griffith
Town and Country
August 20, 2015

St. Paul's, the historic New England boarding school, is under fire. Owen Labrie, a recently graduated senior, is on trial in Concord, New Hampshire, where the school is located, for allegedly sexually assaulting a fellow student at the end of the recent school year. Labrie's lawyer has argued that his client was motivated by the 151-year-old, formerly all-male school's tradition of predatory sexual behavior, specifically blaming the "senior salute," a ritual in which older students proposition underclassmen. 

As the case gathers attention (local media are reportedly overwhelmed by requests from their national cohorts), graduates of the school, who can be found throughout the highest positions of government, business and the media, are having an intense, behind-the-scenes debate about whether the school's culture promotes transgression. Here's what a few of them are saying. No one interviewed below agreed to be identified. 

"People in every high school, everywhere, hook-up. It happens. Just because students at St. Paul's have put a name on senior guys doing it, it's easier to crucify them for it. Not that it's right if anyone gets hurt under the guise of it, but no one should take issue with an old tradition that not even everyone does."
Male, 2004 Graduate 

"Everyone knows about senior salutes, but not everyone takes them seriously. It's not like a mandatory thing at St. Paul's. There's no pressure. I feel like they're [the press; the courts] trying to make it out to be that our school, in this department at least, is so much different than every other boarding school out there. It's not. We just put a name to these things people talk about and do in their own ways."
Female, 2004 Graduate 

"The "slay key" [in reference to a key that is passed down and used to open the mechanical room the alleged situation occurred in], I remember that's what some of the boys called it. I never saw it but I know it existed. I'm not sure how many of them actually used it. I'm not sure girls ever felt pressured to do more than they wanted because guys just seemed happy to get whatever they could, but boys definitely seemed to be competitive with each other to see who could get the most. But that's high school, right?" Female, 2013 Graduate 

"A school like St. Paul's, because it's a boarding school and because it's so selective, is going to function like a college in the sense that you're going to have groups that conduct themselves like sororities and fraternities and practice traditions and rituals in that sense, some totally innocent, and some based around their urge to attract the opposite sex. The difference is, St. Paul's is full of much younger kids [than a college], so the maturity is taken down to an even lower level. So you have things like senior salutes and Fall Ball date challenges, along with more innocent things like Mish holiday or Last Night service. The only time any of this becomes a problem is when people start getting hurt."
Female, 2006 Graduate


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