Sexual Abuse at Catlin Gabel School: Initial Report

Catlin Gabel School sign

A shocking report of sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel School (CGS) released last month revealed that at least nine former teachers and staff members sexually molested or exploited students. The abuse dates back to the 1970’s. The report documents complaints and allegations of sexual impropriety with students involving as many as 21 adults at the school from the 1960s to 2016.

The report is the product of a year-long investigation by the Board of Trustees at Catlin Gabel, an elite private school here in Portland. The investigation was prompted by a 2018 Facebook post by a woman who said she had been abused at Catlin when she was a student.


Most of the victims were young female teens and girls and the perpetrators were grown men. The behavior ranged from boundary violations and grooming to criminal acts of sexual assault. The report noted that, in some cases, the school protected the perpetrators of sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel instead of the girls. Many students and staff members made complaints at the time of the abuse, but their complaints went nowhere.

The report shows a culture that fostered sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel and other sexually inappropriate conduct by adults with students. Students, even in high school, are still minors. It is the responsibility of the adults at a school to set and enforce proper boundaries, especially when it comes to intimacy and sexuality. Throughout the investigation, many former students said that some relationships between students and teachers seemed “unnaturally close.” Several Catlin students married faculty members after graduation and, it is believed, starting relationships while the students were still in school.


It is hard to tell from the CGS report how many victims and different perpetrators there were of sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel. The school decided it would only name perpetrators if there were multiple reports, “credible” accounts of abuse, an admission of guilt by the perpetrator, or documentary evidence. Based on these criteria, there are six named abusers, three identified but not named, and at least 12 more unnamed, alleged perpetrators. Below is a list of the six former Catlin Gabel employees named in the report who engaged in sexual misconduct.

The details described below come only from the CGS report. They are not accurate or complete.

Richardson “Dick” Shoemaker (“Shoe”):

Shoemaker was a sixth-grade teacher from 1964-2001. He also drove a school bus for Catlin, and occasionally taught P.E. and coached girls’ soccer. Shoemaker was accused repeatedly of groping and inappropriate touching by female students. Ironically, he was such a prominent figure at Catlin, there was a portrait of him painted one of the school buses. Former students alleged Shoemaker put his hands inside their shirts and rubbed or fondled their breasts as well as touching them on the butt. He was known for asking girls to sit on his lap in class. The report states that he kissed a female student while they were alone in the classroom.

Many former Catlin students feared they would be ostracized if they came forward about Shoemaker. However, the report says a group of students in the 90’s took their complaint to another teacher. That teacher dismissed their concerns, and nothing was done about Shoemaker at the time. Later in the mid-90’s, two teachers confronted Shoemaker about girls sitting on his lap. He was angered by the confrontation and allegedly stormed out of a meeting. Several years went by and another group of female students wanted to report Shoemaker. Faculty members told them to go straight to the source, and they confronted Shoemaker himself. He allegedly got very emotional and began crying and apologizing to the group of female students.

It wasn’t until 2000 when Catlin learned that law enforcement was investigating Shoemaker on sexual abuse charges that did not involve “current or recent” Catlin students, did the school finally get rid of him. Shoemaker resigned at the end of the 2000-01 school year. Several additional complaints about Shoemaker came in after he left CGS.

Robert Ashe:

Ashe was an English teacher and theater adviser for Catlin from 1967-1995. He also coached soccer. Ashe allegedly took a female Catlin student to a drinking event where she was the only girl, got her drunk, and tried kissing her. Another student alleged that Ashe tried have sexual relations with her while on a trip abroad. In 1995, Ashe was sued by a teen from another school for sexual abuse that occurred on Catlin’s campus. Once Catlin Gabel learned of the lawsuit, they worked a deal with Ashe to resign. Ashe paid a settlement to the girl in 2000, but the amount was confidential.

Mark Petersen:

Petersen was a fifth-grade teacher from 1975-1997. A female student alleged that, when she was in high school in the 1970’s, Petersen had her touch his genitals and tried convincing her to have sex with him. Petersen recently admitted his conduct but the school took no action.

Not included in the Catlin report are many allegations that Mark Peterson physically abused students in his fifth-grade class.

Stephen Richmond:

Richmond was a theater and shop teacher from 1973-1982. He engaged in sexual misconduct with several male students during his time at Catlin. The misconduct included nude full-body contact with a student. Richmond never faced any consequences from Catlin Gabel.

Samuel Crawley:

Crawley was an English teacher from 1973-1984. He began with a sexual relationship of some kind with a senior at Catlin, and once she turned 18 and was still attending the school, they began having sex. The head of school, Manvel Schauffler, knew about it because Crawley admitted Schauffler talked to him about the relationship. This victim believes that many people at Catlin knew these types of sexual and intimate relationships were going on between other teachers and students. Crawley engaged in several inappropriate relationships with students before leaving Catlin in 1984. The school apparently took no action against Crawley.

Deonte Huff:

Huff was a physical education teacher and coach of several sports teams from 2010-2013. He had sex with an underage 12th grade student at Catlin. A parent found out about the sexual misconduct and reported it to the school. Huff was arrested, pled guilty to sex abuse charges, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.


Aside from the six named abusers from Catlin, the report also details three other teachers who engaged in sexual misconduct and sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel. Catlin Gabel has withheld their names. These include a male teacher at Catlin in the 60’s and 70’s who had sexual relationship with a student while she was only in the 6th or 7th grade. Another on the list a teacher who began a relationship with a student in 2010. The improper conduct included the teacher sending the girl gifts of underwear and asking her to send sexual pictures of herself. After the student graduated, her parents notified the school and CGS filed  teacher in 2016.

Since Catlin Gabel released the report, I’ve talked with several alumni who have told me about other incidents and perpetrators at Catlin Gabel not mentioned in the report. The Washington County Sheriff’s office has also opened appropriate criminal investigations. It seems likely that other names will be added to the above list.


This investigation was a good first step. It can’t have been easy for Catlin Gabel to take it. Good for the school to do so. CGS issued an apology to all parents and families of alumni: “It is clear that Catlin Gabel failed on multiple accounts – in protecting students, in addressing the abuse, and in enacting change. We profoundly apologize for the pain and suffering that these alumni endured. What happened is inexcusable.”

It is important to note that the investigation was professional, but incomplete. The school invited people to call or email with reports of sexual misconduct. But the hired investigator only talked to “self-identified” victims — the school did not follow up on reports of other kids being abused. As the report puts it: “The investigator did not engage in any proactive outreach to those identified, or those believed by others to be victims/survivors of inappropriate behavior by Catlin Gabel employees.” So ten people could have reported that a teacher had assaulted a certain girl, but if that girl (now woman) herself didn’t call, that teacher would not be in this report.

The report also did not cover physical abuse. Several Catlin alumni reported to the investigator that they experienced or witnessed physical abuse at Catlin Gabel. Many of those allegations involved Mark Peterson. Catlin Gabel did not include those allegations of physical child abuse in its report.

There are likely many more former Catlin students who were affected by physical and sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel and the sexualized culture of the school. Whether kids were assaulted or sexually exploited themselves, or know others who were, those stories have yet to come out. Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy. Secrets locked up live on. I think we will hear more from Catlin Gabel alumni.

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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