Local News

Quaker school says former principal inappropriately touched students

Posted June 11, 2014 6:11 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2014 4:27 p.m. EDT

— The head of a Quaker school in Durham says the school has learned of sexual misconduct allegations involving a principal and several students enrolled at the school nearly 40 years ago.

Mike Hanas, principal for Carolina Friends School, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the discovery comes following an independent review into claims the school received in 2012.

Five former students who were enrolled in the lower and middle schools between 1969 and 1975 shared accounts of inappropriate touching, and one student reported inappropriate touching by a former teacher in 1976.

The allegations involve students who were over 6 years old, although Hanas did not say what ages.

"This news is heartbreaking," he said in a news release. "Even though these events occurred four decades ago, we are keenly aware that the passage of time has not diminished the impact of these events."

In a letter to parents, he said the school contacted the teacher who "did not wish to deny or contradict" the claims and "expressed remorse for the anguish and harm he had caused."

A day later, the teacher committed suicide, Hanas said.

The school also reached out to the principal but has not heard back from him, Hanas said.

"We are sorry for the loss of opportunity for our community and for him to pursue some measure of restorative justice," he added.

The school, which serves students in Durham and Chapel Hill, is cooperating with authorities, and Hanas said that anyone with similar claims to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Office at 919-644-3050.

"While law enforcement has shared that the acts in question may be beyond the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, their review remains open," he said.

Carolina Friends School opened in 1964 and has approximately 490 students between the ages of 3 and 18.

"Our first responsibility at CFS is the wellbeing of our students – past, current and future," Hanas said. "We are fiercely determined to learn from this experience and will do everything in our power to prevent it from happening again."

The school is now working with a group to help train teachers and staff to recognize signs of sexual abuse and neglect. It has also strengthened its process for background checks and changed some protocols when it comes to overnight events, Hanas said.