ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A private school in Maryland confirmed Monday that 10 adults in positions of authority engaged in sexual misconduct or inappropriate relationships with students from the 1970s through the early 1990s, and that the school failed to protect students from them.
The Key School said at least 16 former students were subjected to the abuse. Officials there released the report on the school's website after an investigation that began in April, initiated by the school.
School officials said in a statement the report's findings "left us in shock" and described them as "inexcusable."
The school's administration and board of trustees said they took steps after becoming aware of social media posts discussing inappropriate interactions between former faculty members and students in the 1970s.
"Reading this report is incredibly difficult," said a letter sent from Key to the school's community along with the 41-page report. "Actions, and inaction, described within are hard to process and have left us in shock and dismay. It is clear that adults at Key in the past abused, mistreated and failed to protect children entrusted to them."
The letter also said it is evident that reports of misconduct from the past, made years later, were neither acknowledged nor addressed as they should have been by previous leaders at the school.
"What happened is inexcusable," the letter said.
Investigators from a Baltimore law firm interviewed 57 people over eight months. The school said there are no allegations of misconduct against any current member of the school's faculty, staff or administration in the report.
"Key School today is a very different place than the environment described in the report," the school wrote in the letter. "Our commitment to our students and families is our top priority, and we work proactively to ensure the safety and well-being of all students."
Carolyn Surrick, who said she was abused by two teachers beginning when she was 13 in the 1970s, has been trying to make the misconduct public for more than 25 years. Surrick, 59, has spoken publicly about her experience and wrote about it on social media last January using the hashtag #KeyToo, a reference to the #MeToo movement in which women have spoken out about sexual harassment and assault.
"Because of #MeToo and because it's finally time, people started talking about this, and I held on to this history in my head for so many years and now I don't have to," Surrick said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "People have said their truth. They have told the truth, and it's a completely new world."
The Associated Press doesn't normally name victims of sex crimes but Surrick said she wants to be identified.
One other accuser had spoken publicly before the woman's efforts to raise awareness. Five additional women later came forward to say they were sexually abused by teachers in the 1970s.
The school was founded in 1958 by professors from nearby St. John's College, known for its course of study founded on discussions of the Great Books of western civilization. With more than 600 students, it engages children from 2.5 years of age through grade 12 in what its website describes as a progressive, coeducational college-preparatory program. Annual tuition is $28,350 for the upper school.
The report noted the school fostered an atmosphere of independent thinking even in young children, as well as an informal and progressive social atmosphere.
"As set forth below, however, our investigation confirmed allegations that in the 1970s a group of teachers took advantage of this atmosphere, abusing their roles as teachers to sexually exploit students and targeting in many cases students who were members of families suffering from various pressures resulting in less family supervision."
The report also found that the school failed to protect students from those teachers, and there were adults in the Key School community, including members of the faculty and staff, administrators, and board members "who were aware of the abuse and inappropriate conduct and chose not to intervene."
The report marks the latest investigation outlining abuse that occurred decades earlier at a private school. In 2017, an investigation at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, detailed abuse by at least a dozen former educators who sexually molested students over four decades. St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, agreed in 2017 to a sexual abuse settlement that provided compensation for up to 30 former students who were assaulted. In 2015, an investigation at the elite Horace Mann School in New York City identified more than 60 former students who said they were sexually abused from the 1960s through the 1990s.
The Boston Globe found in 2016 that 67 private schools in New England faced accusations of sexual misconduct since 1991.