Decades of alleged sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior revealed in Park School report

Dec 7, 2018

The Park School of Buffalo issued a report into an investigation that reveals decades of alleged sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships between former faculty and students.

An investigation was launched last April following claims made by a former student of abusive behavior that occurred in the 1980s and 90s. Hodgson Russ conducted the investigation for Park School. Thirty people came forward to offer stories of misconduct and abuse.

Outside of The Park School.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

The 46-page report spans from the late 1950s to the 2000s, but a majority of the alleged inappropriate behavior and sexual abuse occurred between 1960 and 1990. Two of the four teachers involved in the investigation are reported to be deceased. Two others are no longer teaching. None of the allegations involve any current faculty or staffers.

In a letter to the school community, Park School stated the report's findings are "upsetting" and "inexcusable," apologizing to the students and their families. It also noted the accounts of stories from former students are "painful" and "difficult" to read.

But Erie County District Attorney John Flynn issued a statement saying he is "deeply concerned" about the report. His office asked Park School attorneys to delay the release of the report for a few days delay to give the DA’s office time to conduct a full review of the report. However, the request was denied.

Flynn said he is concerned about the school's "lack of transparency" with refusal to delay release. He noted while the allegations occurred outside the statutes of limitations, failing to have it reviewed and vetted by law enforcement could necessitate an investigation by the DA.

The following is the full statement issued by Flynn:

“I am deeply concerned about the report issued today by The Park School of Buffalo regarding allegations of abuse and misconduct by faculty members over the past 60 years.

Yesterday evening, the attorneys representing the Park School notified the Erie County District Attorney’s Office that a report would be issued on Friday morning. We asked the Park School’s attorneys to delay the release of its report for a few days until our office could conduct a thorough review of the report and meet with the Park School’s attorneys. Our request was denied.

In January, the attorneys who represented the Nichols School in their investigation into faculty abuse and misconduct provided the Erie County District Attorney’s Office a copy of their report in advance and met with me personally before releasing their report to the public.

I am concerned about the Park School’s lack of transparency because they refused to delay, even for a few days, the release of this report so that the District Attorney’s Office could review the report and the allegations and fully vet the extent of the Park School’s internal investigation.

Although the report details allegations that occurred outside the relevant statutes of limitations, the report being released without proper review and vetting by law enforcement may necessitate an investigation by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

With another report released that details decades of abuse against children, I continue to be disturbed by these crimes that cannot be prosecuted. I will continue my push to have the Child Victims Act passed in the next legislative session.”

WBFO has requested comment from the leader of Park School, but the request was declined. Jeremy Besch, Head of School, wrote in an email, "at this time, out of respect for those who shared their difficult stories with us, we're going to let the report speak for itself."

A Park spokesperson issued the following statement in response to the district attorney's statement Friday afternoon:

"We are grateful that the District Attorney has indicated that he may further investigate these matters, and sincerely appreciate his commitment to protecting the victims, who courageously came forward to tell their stories.  Transparency and honesty with these stories have always been of paramount importance and the guiding focus of this work. The timing of the release of the report was in no way intended to affect his efforts. The Park School remains committed to working with the District Attorney’s office to assist it."

In January of this year, Nichols School issued the results of an investigation into past inappropriate relationships involving students and faculty, revealing ten former faculty engaged in misconduct.