EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 11, 2013

Unclear if state mandated reporter law applies to former Brooks headmaster

NORTH ANDOVER — The relationship Brooks School disclosed last week involving its former headmaster and a one-time student was not reported to state children’s services authorities, and it is unclear whether a report was required under state law with the information made public so far.

Massachusetts requires a range of professionals who work with or near children, including school officials, to report suspicions or evidence of neglect or physical or sexual abuse to the state Department of Families and Children or face a fine.

Brooks disclosed in a letter to alumni on Jan. 3 that former headmaster Lawrence W. Becker had an inappropriate relationship with a student at some point during his tenure. A school spokeswoman said the relationship occurred while publisher Steve Forbes, a 1966 Brooks alumnus, was president of the Board of Trustees between 1987 and 1997.

Karen Schwartzman, a public relations consultant and founder of Polaris Public Relations who represents independent schools and specializes in reputation management, said the relationship was never reported to the state and the school does not plan to involve state departments or any police agencies.

“The School has engaged recently in conversations with the former student/now alumnus regarding that person’s experience at the School, and all matters are resolved to the satisfaction of both the School and the alumnus,” she said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune.

Current Head of School John R. Packard and Board of Trustees President William N. Booth emailed a letter to alumni Jan. 3 that called the relationship “objectionable, manipulative, and an abuse of his position.” Schwartzman would not discuss the nature of the relationship, the gender of the student or the student’s age when the relationship occurred.

Forbes, who remains a trustee emeritus at Brooks, said through a spokeswoman that the issue was handled correctly at the time.

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