CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A former admissions officer at an elite prep school who went on to become a Teacher of the Year at another school has turned himself in to face allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage boy decades ago.
Arthur Peekel is at least the third staff member this year to be accused of sexual misconduct at Phillips Exeter Academy, a coed school for students in grades 9 to 12. He’s accused of assaulting Lawrence Jenkens when Jenkens visited the school in Exeter as a youngster in 1973.
Peekel left the school soon afterward and went on to teach in Illinois, where he was named Teacher of the Year in 1992. He retired from Rolling Meadows High School in 2004. School officials said they were unaware of the Exeter allegations when they hired him in 1986 and no allegations have been made against him during his tenure there.
Peekel, 74, was arrested and charged Friday with two counts of sexual assault. He was free on $25,000 bail but didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
His arraignment is set for July 5. The statute of limitations wasn’t applicable in this case because he had moved out of state.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they’re victims of sexual abuse, but Jenkens said he wanted to discuss his case publicly.
“There is something about knowing he had gone back to Exeter, that he had turned himself in to the police station in order to be charged with these two misdemeanors, that was more emotional than what I had been going through for the last month,” Jenkens said. “Somehow the thought that, after 43 years, there might actually be an accounting for what happened really did overwhelm me.”
Concerns about sex abuse at Exeter were first raised following revelations in March about former teacher Rick Schubart, who was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s. Then, in April, teacher Steve Lewis was fired for having sexual encounters with a student decades ago. Schubart has not responded to several attempts to reach him for comment, and Lewis can’t be located.
The string of abuse claims at Exeter and at several other prep schools in New England, including St. George’s School in Rhode Island and St. Paul’s in New Hampshire, has raised concerns especially among alumni that schools failed to take allegations seriously in the past or bungled their investigations.
In the case of Peekel, Jenkens said he told school authorities repeatedly about the abuse but it was only this year when Exeter referred his case to the police.
Exeter, in response to Peekel being charged, said it was “committed to gathering and confronting the facts about the offenses that occurred here, as well as the school’s response to them at the time.”
Jenkens said he was 14 when Peekel fondled him during the night on a school visit.
“I pretended I was asleep the whole time,” he said.
Once the story of Schubart came out, Jenkens decided to share his on Facebook. Soon after, he was interviewed by police and confronted Peekel over the phone. The conversation was recorded by police in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Jenkens is head of the art department at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
Jenkens said Peekel apologized repeatedly and said, “I wish I could make it up to you.” But Jenkens said Peekel never admitted wrongdoing and suggested Jenkens was dreaming.
Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, and Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.
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