New Jersey School Shows How You Handle Allegations of Sexual Abuse

PingeryThe Pingry School, an upscale private school in New Jersey, recently sent letters to parents of current students, alumni, and school trustees concerning allegations of sexual abuse at the school in the 1970’s.  The school said it sent the letters after “a few alumni shared” that students had been sexually abused by a former faculty member, Thad Alton.

Alton was convicted in 1990 of first-degree sexual abuse and second degree sodomy. He spent five years in jail and is listed on the New York State Sex Offender Registry with an address in Manhattan. Despite his 1990 conviction and the allegations of abuse in the 1970s, the school took action now, as soon as it learned of the accusations.

Headmaster Nathaniel E. Conard and Jeffrey N. Edwards, chair of the board of trustees, signed the letter and followed up with a press release informing the public that the school took appropriate measures to contact law enforcement and pledge assistance in the investigation.

Alton was an employee of Short Hills Country Day School from 1972 to 1974 and, following a merger, an employee of The Pingry School from 1974 to 1978. Alton served as an assistant principal and guidance counselor at Pingry, and taught sixth grade and social studies. He also was a soccer coach at the school and Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the school.

“We are keenly aware that the passage of time has not diminished the impact or lessened the anguish these events have on the affected individuals,” the press statement reads. “We deeply regret the suffering of any of our former students. Our responsibility for the safety and well-being of Pingry students is our highest priority.”

This is how a public institution should act when confronted with possible criminal behavior that harmed children. It is responsible, forthright, and transparent. To their credit, school officials acknowledged the pain caused by the abuse and refused to offer excuses or pleas of ignorance. It is particularly important to note that the school did not shy away from contacting past students who may have been victims of this perpetrator.

Perhaps the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America could learn a thing or two from this school in New Jersey.


Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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