A New Hampshire prep school criticized for how it has handled sexual misconduct and assault cases is facing a federal lawsuit from the parents of a 15-year-old boy, saying it was wrong to withdraw their son after he had sex with another student.
The lawsuit filed Aug. 30 by “Father and Mother Doe” against Phillips Exeter Academy says school administrators at first told them their son, “John Doe,” would be placed on leave in the spring semester, but could return this fall after meeting certain conditions, including seeking therapy.
The parents say administrators changed their minds and decided to withdraw him altogether, as the school was responding to reports it mishandled sexual assault allegations involving staff and students.
The case is the latest to beset the elite private school. Earlier this year, two teachers who worked at Phillips Exeter acknowledged sexual misconduct and a former admissions officer pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse charges. Police are investigating other accusations at the private school.
In response to the lawsuit, Phillips Exeter said in a court document filed Wednesday there wasn’t any “contractual promise” the boy would be allowed to return. The filing said the other student, a 15-year-old girl, is still a student at Phillips Exeter and the boy is enrolled in a public school in his home state.
The Academy made “a difficult, but principled determination” that the boy violated its sexual misconduct and harassment policies,” the school filing said.
A school spokeswoman did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, the boy returned to school from Christmas break in January and went to a dance, where “Jane Doe” flirted with him, and the two had sex the next day. A dean in February contacted the boy’s father about reports of a consensual encounter between the two students, the lawsuit said. An investigator interviewed the boy and a dean later told the father the girl “felt pressured” to have sex, the suit said.
Exeter placed the boy on leave for the semester and wrote to the parents that the deans would review his case and determine whether he would be permitted to return in the fall, the suit said. By June 22, the father learned that his son would be placed on permanent leave.
The boy has not been charged with a crime.
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