CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former math teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy who taught at the prestigious prep school for nearly three decades was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a student from 2014-2016.
Szczesny Jerzy Kaminski, 62, also must complete a sexual offender program, register as a sex offender upon release, and is banned from any contact with the former student or her family. He pleaded guilty in Rockingham County Superior Court to three felonies and one misdemeanor.
The student was 13 in 2013 when she enrolled at the New Hampshire school. Kaminski was her math teacher for freshman and sophomore years, and he tutored her. Prosecutors said Kaminski began sexually abusing her in 2014.
The former student, now 23, described Kaminski as an enthusiastic and caring teacher and that she grew close to him when she started struggling with school.
When he began drawing hearts in red marker on her work, “I didn’t think twice about it,” she said, reading a prepared statement on the phone during the hearing. “Of course there was love and affection there. He filled the spot where my parents couldn’t be.”
Their relationship led to a kiss — her first — and then eventually became more physical.
“At the time, I hadn’t registered at all that I was being abused,” she said. “Here was a man that was kind, smart, and trustworthy. I just couldn’t believe that someone like him could do something so awful,” she said.
During her junior year, she said, she isolated herself from others, didn’t take care of herself, and stopped attending class and doing homework.
“Even as I was deep in this fog of depression, I still thought you were trying to help me,” she said. “You would stop by my room and drop off my favorite snacks, still trying to cheer me up with my favorite songs. I pushed away everyone in my life. I blamed myself for destroying everything good around me. It look years of loathing and shame before I sought help and realize that my pain and suffering was because of your actions.”
Kaminski was arrested in 2020. He did not speak in court beyond answering routine questions and pleading guilty to the charges. A message was left with his lawyer seeking comment.
“We are relieved that Jerzy Kaminski is finally being held accountable for his crimes and the harm he has caused,” Exeter Principal Bill Rawson said in a statement. “We commend (the victim’s) efforts in seeking justice for herself and will support her in every way we can as she moves forward from this painful chapter.”
Exeter is one of several prep schools in New England that have faced sexual misconduct claims going back decades, resulting in lawsuits by former students and criminal charges against faculty.
The problem came to light at Exeter in 2016, when it became public that a teacher had been forced to resign several years earlier after admitting to sexual misconduct with students as far back as the 1970s. Revelations of misconduct by other teachers followed in quick succession, and the school has committed to a series of reforms.
“This plea deal holds a particular teacher accountable for what he did, but does little for Exeter’s accountability for what was not done,” Ann Malabre, a founding board member of the Phillips Exeter Alumni for Truth and Healing, said in a statement.
She said that even now as the school conducts boundary and consent seminars with faculty and students, “the Exeter community is stunned and confused by the magnitude of this latest case of abuse of trust, the disturbing details, and its rippling repercussions.”
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