Article from NJ.com
A popular teacher and Boy Scout leader at a prestigious prep school is believed to have abused at least 27 boys over six years in the mid 1970s, according to an inquiry by an investigative firm commissioned by the Pingry School.
The investigation also revealed alleged sexual misconduct by two other teachers, including a music teacher who taught at the school for 46 years.
The Pingry School’s report, released publicly late Tuesday, states Thad “Ted” Alton allegedly preyed on preteen boys in his class, as well as his Boy Scout troop, during his time at the school’s Short Hills campus from 1972-78. The victims allege abuse that was unrelenting, with some claiming they were assaulted anywhere from 25 to 100 times.
The report comes almost a year to the day after Pingry first informed its alumni that officials had learned of accusations by former students against Alton.
“We are devastated by these findings and the reality that these abuses were, for decades, weighing on the survivors without our awareness our our action,” said Nathaniel Conard, headmaster, and Jeffrey Edwards, chair of the board of trustees, in an open letter to the Pingry community on the school’s website, PingryResponse.org.
The report found no reason to believe that Pingry officials were aware of the alleged abuse at the time, except for one board member who heard about Alton’s behavior, but never officially reported it.
Some of Alton’s coworkers said he appeared to act in unusual ways around some of the students, including meetings with them in his locked office. But they never spoke up. Their silence was “particularly troubling,” the letter said.
“For all of these reasons, we want to extend a profound apology to our community,” the letter said.
Alton, 70, is now self-employed, writes curriculum for prisoners, and lives in Lower Manhattan, where he registered as as sex offender because of a 1990 conviction for deviate sexual misconduct in upstate New York. His Morristown attorney. Marcy McMann, declined to comment on the report.
The report, written by T&M Protection Resources, a New York private investigating firm, paints a picture of a small school at which several teachers targeted boys for sexual gratification.
The two other teachers named include Woodshop instructor Bruce Bohrer, who taught at the school’s Short Hills Campus between 1974 and 1991. He allegedly sexually abused at least three 10- and 11-year-old boys and engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with at least one 11-year-old boy, between 1978 and 1979, according to the report.
Bohrer told investigators “he would never do anything like that,” the report stated. Bohrer could not be reached for comment.
Antoine du Bourg, a longtime science and music instructor, was purported to have engaged in “harassing behavior” and to have had “inappropriate physical contact” with multiple students. He taught the older grades at Pingry for 46 years, retiring in 2002. He died in 2011 at the age of 82. Relatives could not be reached for comment.
The report detailed episodes in which the teachers from that era behaved with seeming impunity:
The report also said investigators heard stories about sexual misconduct by other faculty members, but they were not included in the document because they could not be corroborated.
Teachers from the school told investigators Alton’s actions gave them a vague sense of unease because he seemed “too close” to his students and Scout members – but they felt they had no hard evidence to lodge any complaint about him.
The private investigators interviewed 74 people from the Pingry community. Alton was contacted but declined, through his attorney, to speak with them.
Many of the alleged victims have retained a Portland, Oregon, law firm that specializes in holding schools and churches accountable for child abuse that took place within their institutions.
The law firm, Crew Janci, said Tuesday it now has 18 former students interested in pursuing some sort of legal action against the school. They come from 12 states and one Canadian province. No lawsuit has been filed yet.
The group, calling themselves the Pingry Survivors, released a statement Tuesday in response to the report.
“Ted Alton was able to keep up his illegal and harmful behavior because of a culture that allowed for concealing and ignoring this damaging abuse. It’s important to recognize this and change the system that allowed the abuse to occur and to continue over many years,” the group said.
“While the details are disturbing and painful to hear, we hope that exposing the truth at The Pingry School will serve as the first step in the healing process — for ourselves and for the entire Pingry community. We remain hopeful we can work with the school to address what happened in the past and to ensure a safe environment at Pingry in the future.”
The report said Alton’s alleged victims were 10-to-12-year-old boys, and he was omnipresent in their lives. He taught, ran a Boy Scout troop, ran a “washtub band,” babysat them, and hired them as babysitters for his own young children. (He was married at the time.)
Alton left Pingry at the close of the 1977-78 school year, moving just a few miles to the west to teach at The Peck School in Morristown. He taught there just one year.
Investigators say there is no reason to believe Alton left Pingry under any kind of cloud; he went to Peck with good references from Pingry. After teaching there just a year, however, word allegedly reached Peck officials of parental concerns that had come to light within the Pingry community about Alton.
Alton was immediately fired from Peck. The concerns were reported to authorities, although the report does not specify who did that. Alton was charged in 1979 and pleaded guilty to six charges stemming from an episode of strip poker and fondling with his Scouts.
He received a suspended sentence and five years’ probation, with the court concluding he’d acted on a “transient situational disturbance.”
Around the time his actions came to light, in the summer of 1979, the report said, a group of Pingry parents of boys in Alton’s Scout troop held a meeting in which they discussed the situation. Some of the attendees recalled a psychiatrist there advised them it would best for the children to avoid any court proceedings. “It was detrimental to take them into a courtroom,” one parent recalled being told.
The report said many of the parents asked their sons if they’d been abused by Alton. All but one denied it – even though many subsequently told investigators they were in fact abused.
“I was so ashamed and scared I couldn’t say no fast enough,” one victim told investigators.
“The way I dealt with it was to pretend like it never happened,” said another victim. “That was my way, I guess, of trying to move beyond it as much as a 13-year-old kid could.”