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Sexual misconduct at Va. school stretched over decades

Monday - 6/30/2014, 4:29pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- A former teacher at The Potomac School in McLean may have preyed on dozens of students over two decades, and when high-ranking school officials became aware of the allegations, the ex-teacher was directed to attend counseling.

The school says it is "deeply disturbed" by the findings of an independent investigation into ex-teacher Christopher Kloman, who was sentenced last year to 43 years in prison for the abuse of five former students.

But the entire scope of his predatory conduct may dwarf the sexual abuse laid out in the criminal case.

After the sentencing, the school's Board of Trustees authorized an investigation into Kloman's tenure, which stretched from 1965 to 1994.

During that time, he taught history, geography and math, in addition to his roles as head of the Upper School and later head of the Intermediate School.

The investigation, from the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, found "strong evidence" that Kloman sexually abused 26 former Potomac students between 1966 and the early 1980s. That figure is in addition to the five victims who were part of the criminal conviction.

The abuse ranged from inappropriate touching to rape, according to the investigation.

It also found that various members of the school community, from heads of the school to administrators to board chairs, became aware of Kloman's alleged conduct.

But instead of suspending or terminating Kloman, school officials directed him to counseling twice in the 1970s, a step that was "grossly inadequate," according to the findings.

A message from the school added that this action "did not succeed in stopping the abuse or protecting its students."

In the 1990s, a head of the school learned of earlier sexual misconduct. The investigators found no evidence that school officials ever reported the misconduct to police but Kloman's behavior likely contributed to his termination in 1994.

The Potomac School on Friday sent a letter to parents, alumni and friends to explain the findings.

The letter offered "a sincere and heartfelt apology to the victims as well as their families and friends" and said that the school "failed" to safeguard students.

It pledged to protect the safety of students going forward and that the findings of its investigation would be shared with police.

In addition, the investigation, which included interviews with 240 individuals, uncovered reports that three other Potomac employees engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with students and that four other employees had been dismissed for similar sexual misconduct.

No current employees were accused of similar behavior, according to the report.

The school has already taken steps to improve student safety including expanding criminal background checks to all employees plus tutors and parent volunteers. And this summer teachers will receive training to help them set boundaries with students both in person and when using social media.

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