While evidence suggests that the term “senior salute”—in which 12th-grade students of either gender in their last months at school reached out to younger students of the opposite sex—had not existed for more than two or three years, the practice of “scoring,” or “secret scoring,” in which students kept track of their romantic or sexual conquests, had existed for much longer, as had the ritual of upper-class boys’ “ranking” younger girls’ attractiveness as the boys sat in a common room outside the main dining hall after meals.In a 2013 essay in the school newspaper, Labrie himself had written about the practice.What I’ve learned has made me as sorry as if I were covering a crisis in my own family—which, in a sense, I am. Paul’s and many of its students, alumni, and friends have insisted that what happened in this case was not representative of the broader culture of an institution that, since its founding, in 1856, has educated the cream of the American aristocracy.Its distinguished alumni include the novelists Owen Wister and Rick Moody; the diplomats John Gilbert Winant and John F.“While these words made me uneasy, I did nothing as the head of the School to address their use nor, to my knowledge, did anyone else. Are these words and what they suggest a part of our air?
Paul’s in an effort to force changes in discipline and governance and ensure greater supervision of the 541 students who now have wide run of the bucolic 2,000-acre campus. At my graduation, I won the same prize that Labrie won at his—the Rector’s Award, given by the headmaster to one who has “enhanced our lives and improved the community.” Four years ago, when Labrie was a student, I was a visiting lecturer.In the aftermath of their encounter, they exchanged tender e-mails referring to each other as angels—and anxious Facebook messages about her lost earring, and whether he’d used a condom.When the girl’s older sister learned of the encounter, she smacked the boy in the face, giving him a shiner for his graduation that Sunday.At his trial, last summer, the prosecution alleged, and the available evidence strongly suggests, that Labrie seduced the girl as part of an organized ritual—a competition with other boys to see who could “slay” the greatest number of younger girls in the weeks leading to graduation.In August, a jury acquitted Labrie on the charge of forcible felony rape but convicted him on three misdemeanor counts of statutory rape—penetration of his under-age victim with his hands, tongue, and penis—and on a felony charge of using a computer to lure a minor for sex, an offense that requires him to register as a sex offender for life.The account that follows is based on that information and on interviews with faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and students (all of whom consider themselves friends of the school); with a senior law-enforcement official involved in the case; with representatives of the families of Owen Labrie and the victim (whose identity is shielding in conformity with standard practice in cases of sexual crimes involving under-age persons); and with the father of the victim.I have also spoken with Owen Labrie and his father.Kerry; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse; the actors Judd Nelson (my classmate) and Catherine Oxenberg; plus Garry Trudeau and a passel of Pillsburys, Chubbs, Reids, Rutherfurds, and Wilmerdings, along with the worthy heirs of clergymen, diplomats, teachers, and other promising scholarship kids like Labrie.The school’s lush grounds—a wonderland in winter; a lilac-scented Arden in the spring—are the envy of many a small college.The school kept painting over it, only to have the list repeatedly reappear.The rise of social media has exacerbated the situation and driven such behavior underground to adult-free cyberspace.