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Porter-Gaud Scandal: The Latest

Sources detail allegations, failure of school to respond …

Five days ago this news site dropped a bombshell when we reported on fresh allegations of sexual abuse at the prestigious Porter-Gaud preparatory school in Charleston, South Carolina.

The allegations – directed at a former “religious figurehead” on campus – come as the school is dealing with a high-profile rehash of a prior sex abuse scandal that rocked its campus decades ago, prompting several suicides among student victims.

We’re referring to the release of the documentary film “What Haunts Us” by Porter-Gaud alumna Paige Goldberg Tolmach.  Tolmach’s documentary recalls the saga of Eddie Fischer, who taught at the school for eleven years in the 1970s and early 1980s.  During that time, Fischer molested at least 20 young boys – actions which officials at Porter-Gaud apparently knew about even as they were assisting him in his efforts to find jobs at other schools (where he molested additional victims).

One of the administrators who helped Fischer – former Porter-Gaud principal James Bishop Alexander – killed himself just days before he was scheduled to be deposed in one of the court cases related to the scandal.

According to our sources, history has repeated itself …

“The (latest) alleged sexual abuse has reportedly led to at least one suicide involving a victim,” we reported last week.

We’re now told there are three recent suicides involving Porter-Gaud students said to have been victimized in connection with the latest round of alleged abuse.

All three of the boys fit a specific profile, too.

“They might as well be triplets,” a source familiar with the situation told us.

Our original reporting prompted a written response from the school sent to its entire mailing list (parents, alumni, etc.) ….

“Porter-Gaud has received no allegations of sexual abuse regarding any current or recent faculty or staff member,” head of school DuBose Egleston and board of trustees chairman Hank Cheves wrote in a letter specifically drafted in response to our report.

This statement was qualified, however, by an acknowledgment that the school had previously been made aware of certain inappropriate “behaviors or interactions.”

“In the past, Porter-Gaud has been made aware of a limited number of behaviors or interactions that could be characterized as inappropriate, as defined by our Code of Conduct, but in no way constituted sexual abuse,” the letter continued.  “In those cases, Porter-Gaud took action from remedial training in our School’s policies to corrective behavior protocols to more severe personnel measures.”

Is the school telling the truth, though?  Or is it downplaying the allegations? And covering up its inaction in response?

We shall see …

Other Porter-Gaud supporters have responded more aggressively to our reporting … with one Charleston, S.C. attorney accusing us of “recklessly and maliciously” impugning the integrity the institution .

Since the publication of our original report (and Porter-Gaud’s response), several things have happened.

First, this news site has been contacted by several additional sources close to the school who are in possession of more specific information detailing the alleged abuse – as well as the alleged failure of Porter-Gaud officials to respond to it in a timely and appropriate fashion.  In addition to recounting their own experiences, these sources have provided us with documents detailing both the alleged abuse and the school’s response to it (or lack thereof).

On the advice of our attorneys, we are continuing to withhold the names of all of the individuals said to be involved in this story … but we are continuing to meticulously document what we have uncovered as we prepare to file future reports.

(Click to view)

(Via: iStock)

We can confirm, however, that in May of 2016 – following the most recent suicide – a Porter-Gaud trustee met with several concerned parents about the alleged abuse taking place in and around the institution.

At this meeting, “grave concerns” were raised and specific abusive behaviors were discussed – including reports of the religious figurehead engaging in “heavy petting” of his alleged victims and “pressing and rubbing up against” multiple young boys while in a state of physical arousal.

Other reports to school officials around this time detailed repeated allegations of “unwanted and inappropriate” touching on the part of this individual – including one allegation of a young boy being fondled through his pants pocket.

School officials were informed of all of these allegations … and encouraged to take corrective action in response to them.

“Whatever did or didn’t happen – the optics suck,” one parent told the trustee last May. “Especially considering the school’s past.”

In May of this year – a little over a year after the most recent suicide – Egleston and Cheves met face-to-face with a parent of one of the alleged victims.   During this meeting, which took place in Cheves’ office in North Charleston, S.C., additional details were provided regarding the alleged abuse the young boy is said to have endured at the hands of his “spiritual mentor.”

Not long after this meeting, the school reportedly took the “severe personnel measures” it referenced in its letter.

As noted in our prior reporting, victims’ advocates are working with several Porter-Gaud families in an effort to comfort them and bring these allegations to light.  We’re also told there is a growing groundswell of support for these families on the part of parents, alumni and several faculty members at the school who previously spoke out as to what they witnessed.

Perhaps more importantly, we are also reliably informed that both local and state law enforcement agencies have been notified of the latest round of Porter-Gaud sex abuse allegations – although it’s not immediately clear whether any formal investigations have been requested (or initiated).

Finally, we’re reliably informed that The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – the paper of record in the Lowcountry – was first made aware of the allegations over a year ago.

Stay tuned … much more to come.

***

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