Video scandal shakes St. Paul's

3 suspended after athletes view tape of student having sex

March 31, 2001|By Andrew A. Green and Lem Satterfield | Andrew A. Green and Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Three students at St. Paul's School for Boys were suspended indefinitely yesterday, lacrosse practices and games were canceled and teachers were lecturing students about morality in response to a sex scandal this week at the private Brooklandville school.

Administrators have interviewed two dozen students, and school officials confirmed yesterday that a player on the junior varsity boys' lacrosse team had videotaped himself and a girl from another private school having sex and showed the tape to other members of the team.

Contrary to earlier reports, investigators for the school found no evidence that copies of the videotape were sold, said Daniel R. Baker, president of St. Paul's board of trustees.

Only two copies existed, and both have been destroyed, officials said.

"We do know that the majority of the lacrosse team was [watching the video] and have stated, categorically, that they feel awful," he said.

One of the suspended students was a senior varsity lacrosse player, another was a member of the freshman-sophomore team, and the third was not a member of either team, said a source close to the school's internal investigation.

He said that school officials have met with the parents of the students involved and that he does not know of any forthcoming legal action.

"Nobody should forget that the victim in this is the young lady, and that we have to have a strong sense of compassion for her cannot be trivialized," Baker said.

"There's a healing process that has to take place. There are issues of responsibility, atonement and redemption that must not be forgotten," he said. "Clearly, we need to find out why and how this happened, but, then, a lot of the focus on what we're going to do will go beyond the disciplinary action. We have a teachable moment here, and there is so much to be learned."

Investigators found that a 16-year-old sophomore on the junior varsity team videotaped himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl - who did not know she was being recorded - the night of March 23, a source close to the investigation said. On March 24, the player and a small group of his teammates went to another player's home and watched the tape, the source said.

Word spread about the tape, and one of the varsity players borrowed the tape on Monday and took it to the home of a senior, where players were gathered to watch a game video of their opponent for the next day. Most of the players there did not know the other tape would be shown, the source said.

The male subject of the video was not present, the source said.

In a letter to parents and alumni yesterday, Baker wrote that the incident shows "an apparent lack of respect for another human being," one of the core values in the school's standards of conduct. St. Paul's will continue to investigate and will explore a variety of courses of action, perhaps including counseling, community service, suspension or dismissal.

In its handbook for students, St. Paul's delineates a code of conduct and notes that students are expected to live up to it, both on and off campus.

Students who violate standards - including respect for the rights, dignity and feelings of others - "may forfeit [their] right to be a part of the St. Paul's community."

"We will make those decisions shortly," Baker wrote.

Parents and students confirmed that the incident was discussed in an extended chapel service and that teachers took time in class yesterday to discuss what is and is not appropriate behavior for St. Paul's students.

Students at St. Paul's and its sister school, St. Paul's School for Girls, said yesterday that talk of the incident has dominated their discussions for much of the week.

"The faculty members and the whole student body is upset with the people involved in it," said Shel Simon, a sophomore and varsity football player at the boys' school.

At an assembly yesterday, Simon said, school Headmaster Robert W. Hallett implored students to look beyond themselves and focus on the impact on the girl's life.

"The whole community has to go through it and deal with it for a while. We just can't put it away," Simon said.

Rumors have swirled around the campus, students said, and they hope to put the matter behind them quickly.

At St. Paul's School for Girls, 17-year-old Erica Wisner said: "We want it dealt with, but we don't want to hear about it anymore."

"We don't even know what to believe," said Margaret Naeny, 16, another student. "It's all rumors."

Several parents said they think St. Paul's is dealing with the matter appropriately.

"It's a terrible situation, but they're handling it the best they can," said Rose R. Tralins, the mother of an 11th-grader.

Boys' school parent Karen W. Babcock, a 1974 graduate of the girls' school, said she was shocked by the incident and couldn't imagine it happening when she was there.

"It's really disturbing and disgusting to myself and to others who went there," she said. "I'd love to see [the lacrosse team] forfeit the whole season."

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