Ousted Over Sexual Misconduct Claims, and On to the Next Teaching Job

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He taught at The Gunnery before he went to Choate. Mr. Rivera was accused of raping a Choate student in 1999, according to that school’s report, and was fired.

Like Mr. Lyman, Mr. Rivera too moved on to teach again — in this case at public schools, leaving Choate off his résumé.

Mr. Lyman did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him. Through a lawyer, he declined to speak with Choate’s investigators at the firm Covington & Burling, the report said. Mr. Rivera did not respond to phone calls or a request for comment through his lawyer. He told Choate’s investigators that he drank with his students the night of the alleged assault that let to his dismissal, but denied any sexual misconduct.

Mr. Lyman spent two years at Choate, from 1980 to 1982. He is accused of having sexually abused two students, having sex with them in his apartment, in his car and on a school trip, and of eventually giving at least one of them herpes, according to investigators. The Choate report said that his behavior had been discovered and that he had been forced to resign.

But now two women have come forward to raise troubling questions about his behavior before he arrived at Choate, when he was at Andover.

One woman approached the school with a report about him, which was passed along to a law firm the school employs to “fully investigate her concerns,” a spokeswoman for Andover said in an email. Andover declined to provide details on the allegations.

A second woman, who attended Andover’s summer session in 1980, brought her account to The New York Times. That woman spoke on the condition of anonymity as a victim of sexual misconduct.

The woman said that Mr. Lyman had given her alcohol, and that they had held hands and walked with their arms around each other. He tried to kiss her. She had been flattered that her teacher had taken an interest in her, she said. On a group camping trip, the student woke up in the middle of the night to find Mr. Lyman kissing and stroking her arms. She said she had pretended to be asleep.

“It would have been so easy for things to happen, but I drew the line,” she said.

“He groomed them,” she said of young women at Choate with whom Mr. Lyman is said to have engaged in sexual relationships. “And if I had been with him for longer, he may have groomed me, too. I was only there for six weeks.”

Andover said that Mr. Lyman was a teaching fellow at the school during the 1978-79 academic year, and that he taught at the summer session in 1979. A spokeswoman said that because the school had “limited records” of who taught at summer sessions during that time, it could neither confirm nor deny that he was on the faculty during the summer of 1980.

Jan Thomas, a spokeswoman for Kent Denver, said Thursday that the school had no knowledge of Mr. Lyman’s issues at Choate until contacted by a reporter last week, and that there was no evidence that he had engaged in “physically inappropriate” behavior at Kent Denver, she said. He left the school, and education, in 1984, after two years at the Colorado school.

Then, on Friday, Rand Harrington, the head of school at Kent Denver, sent out an email about Mr. Lyman and sexual abuse to members of the school community, including alumni. The school received a response that evening, Ms. Thomas said, but she would not say whether Mr. Lyman was the subject of the response, citing confidentiality.

Five states, including Connecticut, have enacted “pass the trash” bills that aim to keep teachers who commit abuse from cycling to other schools. Some of these laws prohibit school districts from entering into agreements with abusers that might suppress information about sexual misconduct, for example, or they might require applicants to disclose if they were ever the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation, unless the charges were proved false.

“Some schools were doing the exact same thing that the Catholic Church did if they had an abuser in their midst,” said Jetta Bernier, the executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group, and a member of an “educator sexual misconduct” task force convened by two private-school organizations. “It’s the same human dynamic. If we just get rid of him, it’ll be O.K.”

In Connecticut, educators have been required to report any allegations of sexual abuse to the state authorities since 1967. But Choate made no reports until 2010, even when it forced teachers out.

Mr. Lyman left Choate with a letter of recommendation. The dean of faculty at Choate, Charles Twichell, who is now dead, wrote the letter, in which he described Mr. Lyman’s “easy familiarity with students.”

Mr. Twichell also appears to have provided a phone reference for Mr. Lyman and was able to skirt any difficult questions about Mr. Lyman. The Choate report describes handwritten notes by Mr. Twichell dated April 19, 1982, that described a 10-minute conversation: “He asked good questions, which I could answer without any except very mild cautions about ‘distance.’”

In 1999, while on a school trip to Costa Rica, according to the Choate report, Mr. Rivera is said to have grabbed the breasts of one student, and raped another student in a pool. The school’s dean of students was immediately dispatched to Costa Rica; Mr. Rivera was recalled to Choate and fired within days.

Choate administrators did not report the allegations about Mr. Rivera’s behavior to the authorities, leaving him free to work in education again, because no red flags were placed in his record.

By 2000, Mr. Rivera was again teaching, this time at Henry Abbott Technical High School, a public school in Danbury, Conn. The state said it no longer had his original résumé on file, but when he applied for a supervisory position in 2003, Choate was not on it, though he did list another private school where he had taught, The Gunnery in Washington, Conn.

On Saturday, The Gunnery sent an email to alumni and parents alerting them to an allegation it received about Mr. Rivera “during his employment at The Gunnery in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 school years.” The message went on, “We are moving quickly to investigate this allegation and determine the facts around the circumstances of his departure to Choate.”

When asked whether Mr. Rivera had received a letter of recommendation from The Gunnery, Ken Mason, a spokesman for the school, declined to comment beyond the emailed statement.

Mr. Rivera went on to work in public schools in Connecticut and New York, becoming principal of Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, Conn., at the beginning of this school year. Regional School District 6 provided Mr. Rivera’s résumé to The Times at The Times’s request. The earliest teaching job Mr. Rivera listed was at Henry Abbott Technical High School, where, he said, he started in 2001.

None of the schools where he worked after Choate say they have received complaints against him.

Edward Drapp, the superintendent, said the district had run the required background check, which includes fingerprinting, and called people beyond those Mr. Rivera had listed as references. But the hiring committee, made up of 12 people, found nothing.

A letter Mr. Drapp sent out to the community this month said Choate’s investigator had contacted the district’s lawyer on April 5 to say that witnesses had corroborated the allegations against Mr. Rivera. He resigned from Wamogo the next day.

“Choate put us in the middle of something we should not have been in the middle of,” Mr. Drapp said.

“I don’t think there’s anything more we could have done to have found out the nature of the allegations or that they were out there,” he continued. “The system is only as good as the people using it.”

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Source: New York Times

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