Sexual misconduct dates back decades at DC’s private Maret School

Several former teachers at the elite, private Maret School in Northwest D.C. are suspected of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior involving students between the 1970s and 2008, according to an independent investigation.

The independent investigation, conducted by the law firm Crowell & Moring and published Thursday, involves behavior called “deeply disturbing,” in a Sept. 19 letter to parents from the head of the school, Marjo Talbott, and Ian Cameron, the president of the board of trustees.

“We are very distressed that former Maret teachers crossed critical boundaries and took advantage of children in their care,” the school officials wrote in the letter. “We want to take this opportunity to state sincerely and forcefully: We are truly sorry.”

Investigators said they received credible reports of misconduct involving eight teachers between the mid-70s and 2008.

Allegations against half of those teachers “met a sufficiently high standard of credibility and severity” to name the former teachers in the report.

The other reports were also credible, but investigators did not name the teachers “because the reports could be not be substantiated” or involved conduct that was “of a less severe nature.”

Of the four teachers named, one is dead, two are no longer teaching and one is currently teaching in a Loudoun County, Virginia, high school, according to the report.

None of the teachers cited in the report have worked at the school for over a decade, the school said.

The conduct cited in the report ranges from teachers having sexual relationships with high school students and inappropriate touching, to grooming behavior, such as inappropriately close emotional relationships with students.

The report said investigators heard credible accounts of a “charismatic” English teacher who had sexual relationships with female high school students, as well as several instances in which he formed inappropriately close emotional relationships with students.

Another allegation involved a physical education teacher who ran an after-school gymnastics program and who was accused of inappropriately touching young girls.

Other misconduct cited in the report included a fourth-grade teacher who, on several occasions, put his hand up girls’ shirts, ostensibly to “take their temperature in their armpit,” and a report that a faculty member showered with students after sports activities.

Many of the allegations were never reported to school authorities at the time — but some were, including by both students and parents. In general, those concerns were dismissed as rumors or not taken seriously, according to the report.

In part, the report faults the school’s culture in the ’70s and ’80s — described in the report as a “loose, alternative universe” — where fuzzy boundaries between students and teachers were not just tolerated but celebrated.

Multiple students told of drinking with teachers at parties and taking “smoking breaks” together.

The report said Maret’s culture has “changed markedly” since those days, citing strong policies regarding teacher conduct and for reporting abuse.

The private school hired the law firm in February to investigate claims involving former faculty members that first came to light last October.

Investigators interviewed more than 50 people and reviewed hundreds of documents.

“Using their deep experience with sexual misconduct investigations for independent schools and other organizations, they produced an uncompromising look at Maret’s history,” the school officials said in their letter.

The letter to parents said investigators did not receive any allegations involving current Maret employees.

School officials also stressed the release of the report is not a “final step,” and that people who want to share their experiences or any other information can still do so by contacting the independent investigators.

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