parable (părˈə-bəl) n. a simple story which illustrates a truth or teaches a moral lesson.
Once upon a time, back in the 1990’s, two students were sexually molested at the New England boarding school, Lawrence Academy, by then-groundskeeper, Peter Regis. The two students confronted Peter Regis in his shop, with the older student reading words she had written directly to him. She spoke of how his behavior was wrong and he had no right to act that way. Peter Regis hung his head in silent agreement and nodded.
Faculty heard of the abuse and confrontation, and the two students were called into the headmaster’s office. There, they gave a report to a worker from child and family services with the headmaster and assistant headmaster present. After answering questions, the students were excused and no further contact was ever made regarding the incident.
The older of the two students was a boarding student at the time, living in Dr. Green dormitory. Following this meeting, Peter Regis soon began to stalk her in her dorm, circling the front lawn in his tractor in the early morning hours, looking up at her window. This student soon went to the headmaster, Steven L Hahn, to ask what would be done. He said essentially, “Nothing”.
Peter Regis again stalked the student in her dorm. The student had to wait for him to leave before she could safely start her school day. The student again went to Steve Hahn urging him that something be done, and again, he essentially said, “Nothing will be done”.
By the end of that year, the student was informed that there would be no financial aid available for her return. The financial aid was still available for her sibling, who was allowed to return. Peter Regis was kept employed and this one student was forced to leave.
This student spent her junior year at public school, and Peter Regis stayed on campus. The student’s parents pleaded with the school that she be let back in for her senior year to graduate. The student was permitted back on certain conditions; that she accept special restrictions, such as not being allowed to leave campus during the day. Amidst all this, the student decided that as soon as she was 18, she would run away from home.
This student barely graduated from Lawrence Academy in 1996 and left for the west coast just weeks later. Peter Regis remained on campus.
In 1997, the student realized that, with her younger friend also now graduated, kids were going to come in every year and not know there was a child molester on campus. So, she went all the way back to the headmaster’s office that spring to talk about what could be done. Steve Hahn still essentially said, “Nothing”.
The student wrote letters from the west coast, urging him to remove the child molester and protect young people. In 1998, Peter Regis was still employed and the student returned again to the headmaster’s office. Steve Hahn gave the impression of caring about the situation and feigned willingness to consider right action. Nothing was done.
In 1999, the student returned to the headmaster’s office again for the same purpose. Again, nothing was done. In 2000, the student once again sat with Steve Hahn in his office, expressing her concern about the safety of new, unsuspecting students. Steve Hahn listened, but again, nothing was done.
By 2001, the student developed severe abdominal pain which eventually required surgery on the west coast. She had been undergoing mental health counseling since 1998. Through surgery, she was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease endometriosis. Knowing that other kids could suffer in the same way was tearing her up inside.
That same year, she received a standard publication from Lawrence Academy in her mailbox. It spoke of a request for alumni to share their input about the school. Yes, she had things to say! She immediately walked into her home and called Steve Hahn. She said she would write editorials to the Boston Globe and the Lowell Sun. She was done. In a series of phone calls, the student and Steve Hahn negotiated that she could come back and speak to the school.
Steve Hahn then called her home in early December to “talk about content”, but the student was already on her way. She was driving from the west coast all the way to Massachusetts, in time to give her speech on December 10, 2001. Upon learning that he could not reach her (in the days before cell phones) and restrict what she would say, Steve Hahn decided only then to let Peter Regis go, on “permanent long-term disability”. The student got this news just days before her speech in the auditorium. She told her story to hundreds of people gathered there, and encouraged the students to speak their truth, no matter who or what they were speaking it against.
Right about this time, Statute of Limitations was running out, for the 23 year-old student to seek legal action against the school. She did not know this at the time. All she knew was the threat was finally removed and she had done her part to keep kids safe.
Steve Hahn ended his tenure as headmaster, rather abruptly, the following year in 2002.
The student’s health continued to suffer and she struggled with disturbed sleep, PTSD and abdominal pain. She had a second surgery at age 27, this time to remove significant growths on her ovaries. She had lost work and fallen into debt. Her relationship with her family was strained, as they had not been supportive during the incidents at Lawrence Academy. She could barely visit the east coast without recurrent trauma.
See, once she was safely far away from there, she just kept running. Every year or less, the student would pack up her life and drive around the country until she felt safe again. Twelve times she crossed the country by car, from 1997 to 2007. Occasionally, in the midst of running, she would face the irrational concern – what if she ran out of roads? It was here she re-learned instinct and safety. Made a commitment to living without fear. Here, she discovered places of true health and reoriented to a world that made sense.
Eventually, she would always find the strength to revisit that place, to address this situation she always knew was wrong. The student would return, again and again, to the source of what set her to running in the first place. She would keep returning until things were right.
In November 2016, her friend from Lawrence Academy – the same one who stood beside her as they confronted the chid molester – sent her the article titled, “Lawrence Academy Asks Sex Misconduct Victims to Step Forward”. Funny, she had been stepping forward since 1994 . . . The student immediately began researching the Boston Globe’s database and soon retained attorney Mitchell Garabedian to represent her in a case.
Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter in 2017 to Lawrence Academy demanding $2 million in settlement.
His approach, as he explained it to the student, would be to scare the school into settling, with the threat of suing the perpetrator (which was still a viable legal option) and creating a negative press campaign. She would have to undergo extensive psychiatric evaluation to strengthen the case.
Now, the student wanted justice, but this all began to feel less and less ethical. She cared about how they got there. On this suggested path, she could only see more damages and no guarantee of acknowledgement or positive change at the school.
The student proposed a Restorative Justice approach, and Mitchell Garabedian was not willing to consider it. Communications lessened and she soon released the attorney, deciding to move forward on her own. With a higher goal in sight, the student chose to step off the litigious path. If her representation didn’t actually represent her, she would represent herself. She contacted new headmaster, Dan Scheibe, and Paul Lannon (attorney for the school) to achieve settlement on different, healthier terms.
After much negotiation, the student soon met in the old headmaster’s office with Steve Hahn, Paul Lannon, Dan Scheibe and Libby Margraf on March 1, 2018. Saroeum Phong of Point One North helped create the structure, and facilitators were arranged from the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University. The former student was able to share her story and be heard. But Steve Hahn did not even stay on for the second portion of the day, when settlement would be discussed.
The student proposed $500,000 (1/4 of the attorney’s demand) and acknowledgement of what happened in a public letter, to be kept on file at the school for perpetuity. She had more ideas for safeguarding students in the future once her terms were met. The student flew back to the west coast and waited. The Executive Committee members met and decided that $25,000 with a confidentiality clause (the student could not legally share the details of settlement) was fair. The student strongly disagreed.
New documents and details came in. The Committee met again and decided that $75,000 with a confidentiality clause was fair. Yet, no one would acknowledge the details of the school’s behavior – only those of Peter Regis, who had not been present at the meetings. (This would later be referred to as a “disagreement” between the student and the school by Dan Scheibe – that the administration/s had anything to account for)
The student is persisting in seeking settlement, official acknowledgement of the school’s handling of the incidents and the promise of true change. Why? Because to not address it is to normalize it. To normalize it, is to allow it to continue… Steve Hahn is refusing to acknowledge. Dan Scheibe is refusing to acknowledge. No one has acknowledged the choices made by the school, and the only settlement offered is minimal, with a bind of secrecy. The student will accept no settlement with a bind of secrecy.
She understood plainly – if the school could not admit to covering up the abuse, or to sending her away for speaking up – the situation was not yet right.
And the story goes on… In May 2018, a feature article was published in the Lowell Sun, titled “A Nightmare Without End”, chronicling the tale. In response to this phrasing, the student asked members of all neighboring towns to attend Lawrence Academy Graduation on Friday June 1. Nightmares end when we wake up. So, the action called on people to simply wear yellow to symbolize the rising sun and a new day when honesty and accountability prevail. So, what happened?
Well, first Dan Scheibe sent a message to the school’s contact list, responding to the Amends Project. In the statement, he knowingly spread false information – and – chose to share sexual abuse details publicly, without the consent of former students. That’s a big no-no. Morally, ethically and legally.
As for graduation? Well, someone decided to deny the press access. Yup. The reporter was literally turned away.
People began to share similar stories of cover-up and sending-away with the student. Some, even happening to this day. So, it was obvious to her, the situation had not been thoroughly addressed. Not at all.
Now, here’s where you get to help craft the ending . . .
Should Dan Scheibe collaborate with Steve Hahn to formally acknowledge the facts of the school’s response, apologize, and keep this on record?
Should the school reach the student’s (not the lawyer’s) initial settlement request to amend for damages and years of extraordinary effort?
Will Lawrence Academy be a place safer if past and current leaders make the choice now to own their mistakes and make amends?
Sign the petition & spread the word!: https://amendsproject.wufoo.com/forms/z1g2rfc60natzge/
Prefer to be anonymous? Choose this one: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/282/370/766/the-second-phase-of-metoo-insisting-on-accountability-from-those-who-cover-up-abuse/
“If we are to be really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill.” — Theodore Roosevelt