Rejecting the school’s request for dismissal, U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden has cleared the student sexual abuse lawsuit against Hotchkiss School for trial. The suit is brought by a former student who attended the prestigious college preparatory school in the mid-1980s, and was sexually abused at age 14 on multiple occasions by a dorm proctor and spurious athletic trainer. The suit further alleges that Hotchkiss School tried to cover up the boy’s reports of the incidents in order to protect its own reputation.
As reported by the Hartford Courant, accused athletic trainer Roy G. Smith Jr., also known as “Uncle Roy,” was employed by Hotchkiss for over 17 years and had unrestricted opportunities to groom children during locker room meetings and even in his private apartment, located inside a boy’s dormitory. The judge noted that Hotchkiss at the time “did not have formal rules, training and procedures related to sexual misconduct between teachers and students,” and found that a reasonable jury could properly determine if Hotchkiss should be liable for increased risk of sexual misconduct.”
The plaintiff’s lawyers, Lieff Cabraser partners Annika K. Martin and Wendy Fleishman, presented evidence in court that Hotchkiss was aware of instances of sexual abuse at the school in the years preceding his enrollment and while he attended the school.
As the Judge observed, “Hotchkiss staff, however, were not receptive to teachers reporting sexual assault of students by teachers. As an institution, Hotchkiss arguably failed to comply with state reporting requirements and investigate allegations of sexual abuse when they were reported.” Judge Bolden went on to conclude, “In fact, Hotchkiss did not implement sexual abuse policies until the late 1990s.”
In 2016, Hotchkiss School issued an alumni report noting that the school was coming to grips with past child sexual abuse on campus and was hiring an independent investigator to uncover additional details.
In October 2018, a second former Hotchkiss student filed a lawsuit alleging that Smith had drugged and sexually assaulted him, following a period of blatant grooming during which Smith inappropriately touched the 15-year-old student even as Smith was the subject of other complaints about sexual abuse of children.