New York Daily News

School gave referral for fired coach

- BY MICHAEL O'KEEFFE

EMMA WILLARD SCHOOL officials fired a soccer coach in 1998 and notified police after they learned the man was having a sexual relationsh­ip with a player — but administra­tors then inexplicab­ly provided letters of recommenda­tion to the alleged sexual predator.

The coach taught at the King School in Stamford, Conn., from 2000 to 2002, according to veteran sexual abuse attorney Roderick MacLeish, who represents former Emma Willard soccer player Kat Sullivan.

Sullivan told the Daily News last month that the coach violently raped her in his apartment on the Troy school’s campus during the winter of 1998. When Sullivan told administra­tors about the alleged rape, she says then-headmistre­ss Robin Robertson offered her two options — withdrawal or expulsion.

“The current administra­tion of the school believes that a reference was provided by the school in 1999 for the individual in question about a year after his employment was terminated,” Emma Willard spokeswoma­n Erin Pihlaja said.

Interim headmistre­ss Sue Groesbeck, Pihlaja added, retracted the reference after Sullivan told school officials about the rape this spring — but that was about 14 years after the coach had left the Stamford school.

King School officials did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

MacLeish, portrayed by actor Billy Crudup in “Spotlight,” told the school about the rape allegation this spring and has asked Emma Willard officials to provide Sullivan with counseling.

Sullivan was 18 years old, 10 years younger than her coach, when the alleged rape occurred. The coach told the Daily News in a recent email that he resigned after the school determined he had “crossed the boundary between what is appropriat­e and inappropri­ate interactio­n between faculty and students,” but that he had never faced criminal charges.

In a recent letter to one of Sullivan’s former teachers, Groesbeck raised doubts about Sullivan's allegation that she was forced from the school after reporting the rape.

“I can also assure you that mistakes were made by the school but there is contradict­ory evidence that those were not the two choices offered to Kat,” Groesbeck wrote to the teacher, who discussed the letter with the Daily News last week.

Groesbeck did not return a request from the Daily News to explain the “contradict­ory evidence.”

“We have an external investigat­ion of these allegation­s under way that will take into account all evidence of any kind,” Pihlaja said. “We are referring all evidence and informatio­n to the investigat­ors.”

Elisabeth Alle LeFort, the chairwoman of the school's board of trustees, said a letter to the Emma Willard community last week that the school had hired Philadelph­ia law firm to handle the probe.

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