School apol­o­gizes, vows to make changes

The Buffalo News - - CON­TIN­UED FROM THE COVER -

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.”

Sharon Can­til­lon/News file photo

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.”

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