Private school starts probe of accused pedophile priest teacher

By Laura Italiano
New York Post
February 07, 2019

Robert Cornigans in 2015

A tony Westchester private school found out two weeks ago that it had an accused, former pedophile on its faculty — and in short order, parents were alerted, the teacher was ousted and a respected New York private investigative firm was hired for an in-house probe.

“We are aware of how unsettling this allegation is,” parents and alumni of The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry were told in a letter this week.

The letter was a follow-up to a Jan. 16 email revealing that English teacher Robert Cornigans had been accused of an abuse that took place in a Boston private school in 1976.

He has since resigned and moved off campus, according to this week’s letter, signed by Head of School Laura Danforth and Edith Chapin, who chairs the board of trustees.

“The Masters School has zero tolerance for child abuse and inappropriate adult-student relationships,” the letter stressed.

The $46,000-a-year school is popular among rich and famous locals — Martin Scorsese delivered the 2018 commencement address and handed a diploma to his graduating daughter, Francesca.

Cornigans, 68, is a former Jesuit priest. On Jan. 15, he was named by the Jesuits as one of 50 current, former or deceased priests from its northeast province who have been credibly accused of abusing a minor since 1950.

In 2003, someone came forward to report that Cornigans had abused a minor in 1976, when he was teaching at Boston College High School, the announcement said. The Jesuits had deemed the accusation “credible” sometime since then.

Cornigans, who did not respond to a request for comment, left Boston College High School two years after the alleged abuse to teach at Fairfield Prep in Connecticut; he left the priesthood in 1981.

In its letter to “The Masters School Community,” Danforth and Chapin said the school has hired T&M Investigations “to provide a safe, discreet and independent resource” for the reporting of any abuse allegations or concerns.

The firm has conducted similar probes for The Landon School, a prestigious all-boys private school in Bethesda, Md., and the Moses Brown School, a Quaker school in Providence, RI.

Danforth declined comment Thursday.


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