School apologizes, vows to make changes
against him, when they hired him to the school’s top position in 1991?
“A review of Graff’s file does not indicate any knowledge of the allegations made against him in 2016 regarding his days as a priest in Hawaii,” said Park’s current head of school, Jeremy Besch. “There are references to his work in Hawaii as part of his employment history, but nothing indicating a problem or any controversy. The file does include two exemplary references from the two schools that employed him between his years in Hawaii and Park.”
The Catholic Diocese of Hawaii “probably never told them,” suggested Stacey Benson, an Anderson & Associates lawyer who worked on the Graff case. Graff served as Park School headmaster from 1991 to 1999.
School officials noted that Bailey’s alleged misconduct, which occurred in the early 1980s, was not reported to Graff until 1997, when the former student contacted him.
Bailey, who is deceased, is one of 12 former Park School teachers identified in the school’s investigative report as the subjects of “credible allegations” of inappropriate conduct with students. The vast majority of the alleged incidents occurred more than 25 years ago. The alleged wrongdoing ranged from making crude remarks about a female student’s breasts and teaching a class while inebriated to sexual molestation.
The report concluded that the school’s handling of some of the allegations “demonstrate historical failures by the school to monitor faculty behavior and adequately protect students.”
“Certain trusted teachers took advantage of the power that inherently exists between figures of authority and students,” the report stated.
“The report’s findings are as upsetting as they are inexcusable,” the school’s leaders said in a letter to students, parents and alumni. “On behalf of the full board, we want to apologize to those students, and their families, for the emotional and/or sexual abuse they reported enduring at the hands of some of our school’s most trusted past faculty and staff. We cannot change these events, but we, on behalf of our school, take responsibility for them and confirm to you that the board and school leadership are doing everything we can to make sure nothing like this happens again at Park.”
Among the accusations described as “credible” in the 50page report:
•Leonard “Tom” Adkins Jr., an English teacher at the school in the 1970s and 1980s, is alleged to have shown a pornographic film to a student, shown photographs of nude students to a student, and played “naked croquet” with another student.
While serving as an adviser to one student, Adkins invited the student to join a “special book club” made up of his favorite students. He molested the student and told him that one of the qualifications for joining the book club was having his penis photographed and measured with a ruler.
Adkins denied the allegations, which were made by several alumni.
•Bailey, who was at the school from 1973 until 2006 and at one time served as “assistant head of school,” is alleged to have made sexual remarks and had inappropriate relationships with female students. In the 1990s, when a female student confided in him that an older male student was “stalking” her, Bailey did nothing to stop the stalking and made jokes about it in front of other students. Described in the report as a “highly beloved” teacher at Park, Bailey is also alleged to have made jokes in class about a female student’s breasts.
•The late E. Webster Dann, a hockey coach and math teacher in the 1970s, is alleged to have engaged in strange and inappropriate behavior with three students – taking showers with two of the students at his home, sleeping in the same bed as one of the students and rubbing a student’s belly and chest. Dann, who later taught and coached hockey at Nichols School, was cited for wrongful conduct with students in a similar investigation report published by Nichols officials in January.
•The late Doug White, a middle school teacher and “director of outdoor education” from 1979 until 1988, took students on camping trips and made one student “uncomfortable” by rubbing his belly. A year after leaving Park School, White was indicted on federal charges of possessing child pornography. He pleaded guilty in 1992 to receiving photographs of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He served six months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. There is no indication in the report that any of the illegal images included Park students.
•The late David Pisaro, a “charismatic” French teacher in the 1970s, invited students to his home to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. He is accused of kissing a student and “forcefully” pinning her to the ground. The student said Pisaro gave her a “significantly lower grade” in French after she spurned his advances.
•Peter Williamson, a history teacher in the 1970s, is accused of drinking and smoking with students during parties at a recreational vehicle where he lived near the school. He allegedly touched a student’s breast and crotch, and kissed and climbed on top of the student “three to four times.” The report does not say whether Williamson spoke to investigators.
One female student told investigators that in the 1990s, she tried to make a complaint to Graff about inappropriate behavior by another teacher. She said Graff told her to keep quiet about the allegations. Graff told investigators he did not recall the incident but denied ever telling the student to keep quiet.
The Buffalo News tried unsuccessfully on Friday to reach Graff, now in his 80s and reportedly living in Amherst. A man who identified himself on the telephone only as Graff’s son told a reporter he does not believe any allegation of misconduct during Graff’s years as a priest. He declined to comment further, but said he would give the reporter’s contact information to Graff.
The report also cites the complaint of a female Park alumna who said the school covered up her allegation that a school employee tried to rape her in the 1950s, when she was 11.
The alumna identified her alleged attacker as the late Michael Chapin, whom she said lived at the school and tended to horses there. She said Chapin was the nephew of the late E. Barton Chapin, who was then the school’s headmaster. She said several students made fun of her after the incident, accusing her of enticing Chapin.
Attorney Julia Hilliker of the Hodgson Russ law firm conducted the investigation. The investigation was commissioned by the school after two alumni went to school officials late last year to complain about a series of incidents they had witnessed in the 1970s.
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said he was outraged by the incidents mentioned in the report, but added that he doubts that he can criminally prosecute any of the cases because of the statute of limitations.
Flynn said that the Park School probe shows that state legislators need to pass the Child Victims Act, a law designed to provide more opportunities to prosecute old cases of child molestation.
“It’s just very disturbing that we’ve seen these kind of allegations and several of the trusted institutions in this community,” Flynn said. “Children were abused and exploited when their parents thought they were safe at school.”
The report on allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers at Park School in the 1970s and ’80s concluded that the school’s handling of some of the allegations “demonstrate historical failures by the school to monitor faculty behavior and adequately protect students.”