EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 6, 2013

Campus secrets resurface

It's been a year of confronting old allegations of student abuse for the Brooks School community

NORTH ANDOVER — The Brooks School’s airing of decades-old dirty secrets — allegations of students being abused by high level staff — has soiled the once-clean, wholesome image of the prestigious prep school by Lake Cochichewick.

First, in early January came the disclosure of former headmaster Lawrence W. Becker’s improper relationship with a student. A joint letter by current Head of School, John R. Packard, and the president of the Board of Trustees, William N. Booth, also informed alumni and parents of reports that Becker — who presided over the school from 1986 to 2008 — “had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior while traveling alone on school business” in 2004 with a male escort.

“We act now in the belief that this inquiry is compelled by our highest priority, which is the well-being of the students who have been entrusted to our care,” school officials said of their reason for soliciting “personal knowledge that calls into question Mr. Becker’s conduct” while headmaster.

Brooks officials never explained Becker’s relationship with the male student, but called it “objectionable, manipulative and an abuse of his position.” Some officials said it didn’t involve any sexual abuse. Based on the feedback received from their outreach, officials said they had no reason “to conclude that additional students were harmed by Mr. Becker.”

Then, last month, after an alumnus claimed in a lawsuit filed against Brooks that he was sexually abused by a woman administrator when he was 15, the school revealed similar alleged misconduct by Lois Poirot, who was assistant director of admissions at the school during the time of her alleged affair with the student.

In another joint letter emailed to The Brooks School community, Packard and Booth called the lawsuit filed by the former student — identified in court papers as “John Doe” — “obviously troubling, made even more so because it is consistent with a similar account of such conduct on her part brought to the school’s attention and settled confidentially decades ago.”

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