Abuse claims surface at Beverly school
Inquiry launched after 2 ex-students speak up
David G. Breed, a Colorado businessman, read the recent damning, 267-page report about the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State and decided it was time for a long overdue reckoning.
He then sent off two e-mails to the Landmark School in Beverly, demanding that the school reopen an investigation against the school administrator Breed says groped him in 1979, when he was 13.
“Do you want to be Paterno?’’ he wrote to a counselor at the school. “You clean the proverbial closet or I will.’’
Breed’s July 12 e-mails have sparked investigations by the Landmark School, prompted another groping allegation against the same administrator at the private residential school, and sparked accusations from Breed that Landmark did nothing when he first lodged a complaint two decades ago.
The allegations could have their biggest impact in the Rockport public schools, where Howard J. Kasper, the man accused of fondling the two former Landmark students, has worked since 2000. Kasper is now a guidance counselor in the Rockport Middle School.
Rockport School Superintendent Robert Liebow said Tuesday that the school system is aware of the allegations, and has been investigating them. Because it is a personnel matter, Liebow said he could not comment further. Both of Kasper’s alleged victims told the Globe they have been interviewed at length by an attorney for the Rockport schools.
Kasper, who is 57, did not respond to numerous messages left on both his home and cell phones.
The post-Penn State allegations have thrown the 41-year-old Landmark School into turmoil. On Tuesday, the school sent 4,200 e-mails, to alumni, current parents, and present and former faculty members, inviting them to report any sexual abuse they might be aware of. In the letter, which did not mention Kasper by name, and in two interviews, Landmark president and headmaster Robert J. Broudo said the allegations have been reported to state educational officials, the Rockport schools, and, Tuesday, to the Essex County district attorney’s office.
No lawsuits or criminal charges have been filed.
But as has often been the case with sexual abuse cases, the issue is not so much what Landmark is doing now, but what Broudo did or did not do when he first learned of the allegations – a matter on which he and Breed now disagree.
In the letter, Broudo wrote: “The first report was brought forth to me in 1994 by the alumnus. In speaking openly with the alumnus now, we both recall that we talked at that time and that I confronted the accused faculty member, who vigorously denied the accusation. I conveyed this information to the alumnus, who chose not to pursue the matter then. The faculty member was not terminated based on that report.’’
Breed, who first contacted the Globe late last week, disputed Broudo’s account. Breed said he first lodged a complaint in 1992, and never heard back. He said he met with Broudo in 2004 to ask again that something be done, and again never heard back. He said he now wishes he had been more insistent.
Broudo, for his part, insists that Breed only contacted him once, in 1994, though he said his attempts to find records of his actions have been fruitless. Though he disputes Breed’s account, he said he takes seriously the allegations by Breed and a second man, Brant Davis. Davis, a 1986 graduate, has told school officials that he too was groped by Kasper in the school infirmary in 1984.
Davis, recalling a moment last week when the Rockport attorney was interviewing him, said, “She asked me what I was trying to get out of this.’’ On Tuesday, Davis said, “All I am trying to do is get a pedophile who affected my life the hell away from children.’’
In the fall of 1984, Davis said he was ill with a cold and fever and spent the night as the only student in Landmark’s infirmary, where he said Kasper came to visit him. He said Kasper, who was assistant dean of students, spent much of the night at his bedside. At one point, he said, Kasper told him he wanted to check his temperature and then put his hand inside the boy’s pants and groped him.
“I thought it was weird. When I was sick at home, my parents never did that to me,’’ Davis said.
Breed’s experience was not dissimilar. He said that when he was in eighth grade at Landmark in 1979, Kasper took him for a walk around campus and then took him into a room and told him to lie down. Breed said Kasper started to massage him, lifting his shirt to massage his chest.
“I was terrified. He kept telling me to relax. Then he started to put his hands down into my pants and I freaked out. I got up and fled,’’ Breed said in an interview.
The allegations have shaken a school that has long been a haven and a pathway to success for children with language-based disabilities. Breed, for one, credits the school with helping him cope with severe dyslexia. Landmark has 460 students – 310 in its high school and 150 in grades 2 through 8. Half of the high school students are boarders.
Tuition ranges from $46,575 for day students to $62,000 for boarding students in the high school. Landmark has one faculty member for every three students.
Breed, who owns a security firm in Colorado and New Hampshire, said he contacted a Globe reporter after he became convinced that the Landmark School was reluctant to vigorously pursue the Kasper case and other allegations he has brought to the school’s attention. Broudo disputes this. “We have undertaken a very intensive investigation of these allegations (against Kasper), and we are looking into other possible sexual misconduct that might have taken place,’’ said Broudo, who has led the school since 1990.
That dispute aside, the issue was one that Broudo was reluctant to discuss when a Globe reporter called him Tuesday morning to ask about allegations concerning Kasper.
“Yes, we were contacted by one victim,’’ Broudo said. When the reporter said the Globe had interviewed two alleged victims, the president replied: “Yes, we were contacted by that person as well.’’
Landmark’s lead investigator is Eric MacLeish, an attorney who represented scores of sexual assault victims of Catholic priests over a dozen years. On July 24, after interviewing Davis, MacLeish sent a letter to Rockport Superintendent Liebow about the allegations.
In Broudo’s letter to the school community, he acknowledged that the school in the past had settled four other claims with former students, two involving harassment and two charging molestation. None involved allegations against Kasper. MacLeish said Tuesday’s mass e-mail will also help the school determine whether there were other victims of the accused in those four previous cases.
MacLeish also acknowledged that the school is investigating additional allegations of sexual misconduct by other former school employees.
Breed, whose first e-mails on July 12 had one word in the subject line – Sandusky, referring to the former assistant football coach at Penn State recently found guilty of serial sexual abuse — said Tuesday night he is relieved that the allegations are becoming public. “But I don’t think people have learned from Penn State. They want to protect their own legacy at the expense of children.’’
Walter V. Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.