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‘Highly credible’ reports of child sex abuse by former Landon School teacher

Landon School letter, sent to to parents Jan. 17, 2019, about investigation into reports of child sexual abuse by a former teacher. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

WASHINGTON — A year after The Landon School — a prestigious all-boys private school in Bethesda, Maryland — announced it was looking into reports of sexual abuse of two students that occurred more than 50 years ago, a third-party investigation reveals the problem was much worse than originally reported.

In a letter Thursday to parents, the school said T&M Protection Resources — a company that researches sexual abuse allegations — said a total of seven alumni came forward to report they were inappropriately touched by the same teacher.

“The reports were highly credible and similar in many disturbing respects,” said the letter from Scott Harris, chair of Landon’s board of trustees, and headmaster Jim Neill.

T&M received 30 calls and emails during the course of the investigation, and communicated directly with 26 people, either in person or by phone.

For the first time, the school identified the teacher as Ward Bates, who taught at the school from 1946 to 1962. He died in 2011.

“According to these alumni, Mr. Bates engaged in repeated direct sexual touching of students and/or leading students to do the same to him. Much of this conduct is reported to have taken place in the classroom, but T&M also received reports of Bates engaging in sexual misconduct outside of school, including sexual advances toward and sexual contact with a student,” according to Harris and Neill.

The school investigators remain open to receiving additional reports from former students who now believe they were abused by Bates.

“Words do not suffice to describe the great sorrow and anger we feel in learning of this abuse,” wrote the Landon leaders. “Parents place their faith in educators to keep their children safe, but these boys — now men in their 60s and 70s — have lived with these memories for decades.”

The school said it has not received any evidence Landon’s administration was aware of the abuse at the time it occurred. However, investigators said one of the men abused by Bates shared his story with a school official in or around 2007.

“It does appear that the school was made aware of Mr. Bates’ conduct at that time, and it appears that no concrete action was taken as a result,” said the officials. “Despite the lack of clarity around this 2007 report, we can say that steps should have been taken by the school to investigate and report on the issue at that time, and we apologize that they were not.”

Landon said it has taken steps “to ensure Landon remains a safe and healthy place not only for the 670 boys who are entrusted to our care, but also for the hundreds of adults who work, teach and serve on our campus.”

The school said it is providing age-appropriate information to students related to “appropriate boundaries and behaviors by adults and how to avoid and/or respond to any questionable behaviors with or by adults.”

Bates also worked as a counselor at Camp Wachusett in New Hampshire during the summer while a teacher at Landon, and after leaving the Bethesda school in 1962, taught at the Blake School in Minnesota until 1976.

“We have shared T&M’s findings about his conduct with the leadership of both institutions,” wrote Landon officials.

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