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Brooks Academy: Sex scandal? Is a liberal Northeastern elite school eating its own tail?

One expects that a liberal Northeastern elite school would be a model of rectitude and probity when handling serious personnel matters. Yet, we find the school not only publicly accusing a former headmaster of inappropriate behavior, but of ringing a bell that cannot be unrung …

January 3, 2013

Dear Brooks Alumni, Parents and Friends,

We write to you today about a troubling matter. It involves Lawrence W. Becker, who served as headmaster of Brooks School from 1986 to 2008. After long deliberations, the school’s Board of Trustees has authorized this outreach because we have genuine concerns that cause us to carefully review Mr. Becker’s tenure at the school.

Last July and continuing throughout the summer, the school received a number of disturbing e-mails about Mr. Becker from an anonymous writer. After denying any knowledge regarding the emails, Mr. Becker eventually acknowledged in early September that he was being threatened by someone who, we later learned, was an escort whom Mr. Becker had hired in the fall of 2011.

Although these events took place after Mr. Becker retired as headmaster, his lack of candor with the school during this episode compelled us to look back at his tenure at the school. In so doing, we reviewed an incident in 2004, when several school employees received calls claiming that Mr. Becker had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior while traveling alone on school business. Mr. Becker denied the allegations at the time and provided an account of his activities which, we now know, was untrue.

Unfortunately, we must also report one additional, disturbing situation. We have grave concerns about Mr. Becker’s relationship with a student while serving as headmaster. In our judgment, his conduct in this relationship was objectionable, manipulative, and an abuse of his position.

Each of these situations is completely inconsistent with the values of the school and, taken together, cause us to be profoundly concerned. In an effort to assess how best to handle this information, we consulted with a highly regarded psychologist with experience in relevant matters. He concurs that this letter is an advisable and prudent step. Thus, we are writing to ask if you have personal knowledge that calls into question Mr. Becker’s conduct and/or oversight during his tenure. A small group of trustees will join the two of us in considering anything you would like to share.

We do not take this step lightly. Brooks School grew and prospered during Mr. Becker’s tenure, and our alumni from that era have gone on to achieve great personal and professional success. We act now in the belief that this inquiry is compelled by our highest priority, which is the well-being of the students who have been entrusted to our care.

The alleged student matter occurred in 2004 – and was not judged to be serious enough to result in firing Becker. So what would possess any school to incur public embarrassment and possible legal liability with an open outreach?  Especially since they could have discretely discussed the matter with the appropriate public authorities and offered to reach out to people on their mailing list.

Could this brouhaha be the result of politically correct liberal groupthink – complete with advice from their “highly regarded psychologist?” 

Could this be the Board’s effort to absolve the school and present and past board members of any potential legal liability for not bringing the matter to the appropriate authorities in a timely manner?

Or could this matter have been used by the elite liberal media to launch a preemptive attack on the former Chairman of school’s Board of Directors, conservative presidential candidate Steve Forbes. According to published reports, the incident with the student, alleged not to be sexual, was investigated by Forbes and legal counsel during Forbes’ ten year tenure in 1987 – 1997.

“The headmaster's relationship with the student was not alleged to have been sexual, but it was discovered when a male escort hired by Mr. Becker in 2011 sent the school emails this summer (the escort was not a student). This followed an earlier incident with an escort on a school business trip in 2004. When confronted about the emails this summer, the Brooks School says, Mr. Becker first lied about them and then admitted that the escort was threatening him.” <Source>

Why would the New York Times publish this letter under the title, “Prep School Reveals Misconduct by Ex-Chief,” or the Business Insider website feature this item under the title, “Steve Forbes' Conduct Questioned As Sex Scandal Engulfs School,” including the actual letter and large pictures of Steve Forbes and Headmaster Becker? Could it be political? Or is it just stupid?

Becker response …

“… in a statement issued by his lawyer, Joseph B. Green, Mr. Becker said that the revelation this week “causes me and my wife great pain, sadness and embarrassment. In including information about my private life, among other things, and given the current climate in schools today, it encourages serious questions and speculation about my relationships with students over the years. I have worked with thousands of students and faculty members in two outstanding schools for over four decades. They know the answers to those questions. I leave the responses to them.” 

Forbes’ Response …

In a statement, Mia Carbonell, a spokeswoman for Forbes Media, said Mr. Forbes was president of the Brooks board from 1987 to 1997. “A matter that came to the attention of the school was referred to the school’s legal counsel and was properly investigated and appropriate action was taken,” she said. “Every step was undertaken with the advice and direction of the school’s outside counsel. The matter did not involve sexual abuse.”

Bottom line …

When a prestigious school rolls in the public gutter that is today’s media instead of quietly turning the matter over to the appropriate authorities, something is very, very wrong.

Perhaps this is part of a preemptive liberal attack on the conservative Steve Forbes who will be among those leading the GOP discussion on tax reform in the coming year?

Perhaps this is the beginning of the collapse of elitist liberal establishments?

Or perhaps it is what it is: stunningly bad judgement on the part of John R. Packard, head of school, and Board President William N. Booth, both who may have needlessly damaged the reputation of two people over stale allegations that conflate personal adult behavior with protected behavior between staff and students.Only time will tell how this all plays out.

I wonder if liberals still teach honor and ethics in their elite academies?

-- steve

Reference Links …

Prep School Reveals Misconduct by Ex-Chief | New York Times

Steve Forbes' Conduct Questioned As Sex Scandal Engulfs School | Business Insider

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