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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019

The 'Senior Salute' at this posh prep school will be central to rape trial

St Paul’s has issued a statement to say allegations are not proven facts.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

ST PAUL’S SCHOOL in New Hampshire was described in a 2006 Vanity Fair feature as “one of America’s most prestigious boarding schools” despite not boasting a US president.

(Although its alumni does include a Nobel laureate and the current US secretary of state, as well as a number of senators and congressmen).

It does, however, also have an ever-growing list of scandals: including a rector on half a million dollars a year, a probe into hazing, a drowning in its fitness centre and allegations of sexual abuse by teachers.

This week, a rape trial involving one of its star pupils will begin in Concord.

Owen Labrie, now 19, is accused of raping a 15-year-old fellow student on the roof of a school building at the end of the last school year.

According to court documents, the student told police about a ‘Senior Salute’ tradition.

Detective Julie Curtin said St Paul’s counselor Sandra Whalen also informed her of “a horrible tradition at the boarding school called the ‘senior salute’ in which a senior emails a younger student regarding a ‘conquest’ before they graduate”.

Labrie, who was accepted into Harvard but is no longer enrolled at the university, has pleaded not guilty.

He is charged with three counts of aggravated felony sex assault, endangering the welfare of a child and using a computer to lure his victim to him.

A statement issued today from the school today ahead of jury selection made clear that the allegations against Labrie are “not proven facts”. 

“As the Labrie trial begins, you may read or hear allegations surrounding those involved in the situation, as well as the about the school.

“These are, indeed, allegations and not proven facts, and the judicial system will weigh them and determine how this case is ultimately resolved.

“We will move past this as a school community, stronger, united, and committed, as always, to ensuring our students’ safety and wellbeing. Allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people that represent our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff.”

The trial will hear from a number of witnesses about the sexual culture at St Paul’s – how boys kept a list of their “scores” by running tallies on walls behind the washing machines.

Prosecutors are due to claim that Labrie emailed his victim to lure her to the on-campus meeting. They say he took her by surprise before she could resist.

The teenager denies raping or having sex with the girl. He says they kissed, touched and took off their clothes. He also admits to putting on a condom but that in a “moment of divine inspiration” he decided to stop.

Labrie claims the girl was eager to have sex as it was a “great source of pride” for younger students to have sex with seniors.

About 530 students from 25 countries are currently enrolled at St Paul’s, a sprawling 2,000-acre wooded campus in the state’s capital. Among its many facilities are 18 dormitories, multiple arts centres, an astronomy centre, a 95,000-square-foot athletic and fitness centre, an 8-lane indoor pool, two climbing walls, two hockey rinks, squash and tennis courts, a 2,000-meter rowing course with boathouse, and nine athletic fields, including a lighted artificial-turf field.

It admitted girls for the first time in 1971.

With reporting by AP

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