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D.C.’s Maret School releases investigation detailing allegations of sexual abuse at the private school

Maret School in Northwest Washington —  serving students in kindergarten through high school — launched an investigation earlier this year.
Maret School in Northwest Washington — serving students in kindergarten through high school — launched an investigation earlier this year. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

At least four faculty members at an elite D.C. private school are suspected of sexually abusing students between 1975 and 2008, according to an internal investigation released by officials at the Maret School.

Maret — in the District’s Woodley Park neighborhood and serving students in kindergarten through high school on a single campus — launched the investigation this year.

The probe began after an alumnus contacted school leaders to report a past incident of sexual abuse by a faculty member. Through an attorney, the alumnus said the school did not thoroughly investigate the abuse when it happened and suggested that Maret conduct a comprehensive review, according to the report.

The investigation was conducted by the law firm Crowell & Moring, which released a 60-page report late Thursday. The review spans more than three decades and details allegations against eight faculty members. Allegations against four of the teachers met a “sufficiently high standard of credibility and severity,” the report said. Investigators found allegations against the remaining four faculty members “credible,” but they could not substantiate them or the accusations were not severe enough.

The reported allegations include sexual intercourse, inappropriate touching with students and grooming vulnerable children for sex. Many of the teachers are suspected of having multiple victims. None of the teachers has been employed by Maret in the past decade. At least one has died and another works for a suburban Virginia district.

“The findings of the independent investigation are sobering,” Marjo Talbott, Maret’s head of school, wrote in a statement. “There is a trust that exists between family and school that was betrayed by these former faculty members. We deeply apologize for the impact these transgressions have had on the lives of those affected.”

The report identified the four faculty members as Eugene Legg, Michael Oehmann, Vern Elder and Kevin Vereecke.

Some of them began working at other schools after they left Maret — even though Maret knew of the allegations against them.

Elder died in 2009. Legg, who works at a Loudoun County high school, and Vereecke declined to comment when reached by phone Friday. Oehmann could not be reached and did not respond to a written message.

Loudoun County Public Schools officials confirmed that Legg works there, but did not say whether they have or will address the allegations made against Legg, who was fired from Maret in 1989.

The report was precipitated when Talbott sent a message to the Maret community in the days before the Senate confirmation hearings for eventual Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in October 2018. She said that in her 25 years at the school, about a dozen Maret students had reported allegations of sexual abuse at school or home.

Part of Kavanaugh’s hearings focused on an allegation that the judge sexually assaulted a teenager while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School, another private school in the Washington region. The event unleashed reports of sexual abuse at private schools across the country.

Former students allege decades-old sexual abuse at Maryland private school.

“The topics of sexual assault and consent can trigger many different emotions in people for a variety of reasons,” Talbott wrote in October 2018, according to the report. “Some of our alumni, parents, and other community members [might] also find themselves struggling to deal with thoughts of past events and behavior.

Months later, the former student and her lawyer referenced the email when she contacted Talbott with her allegation, launching the investigation.

“Maret has taken significant steps in the last decade to address faculty misconduct and to protect its students,” the report reads. “This investigation is another step in confronting these issues by taking an independent and far-reaching look at the School’s past, through reports made to the School or to us by affected students who volunteered their stories and perspectives.”

Investigators interviewed more than 50 people to compile the report and focused on allegations that members of the faculty sexually abused students. The report found that some allegations were reported to school leaders when they happened. In some instances, the school did not take any action. In other cases, the report found that the school addressed the allegations with faculty.

The school has established a “Maret Therapy Support Program” to provide resources and cover the cost of therapy for former students who were sexually abused by faculty members.

A Maret spokeswoman said the fund was started “a couple of years ago.”

The former Maret student who triggered the investigation said through her attorney, Cathy Harris, that the report a “big step in the right direction.” But she also criticized the school for taking so long to act on credible allegations spanning decades.

“We are particularly concerned that despite multiple reports to Maret over the years, it took until 2019 for Maret to conduct this investigation and notify the community,” Harris wrote in an email. “It should not have required a letter from a lawyer to motivate the school to examine its history in a transparent fashion.”

Harris said that her client was told she could have access to funds in the “Maret Therapy Support Program” if she agreed not to sue the school.

A school spokeswoman denied that there was any such condition on using the fund.

Talbott and Ian Cameron, the president of the board of trustees, sent the report in an email to school families and faculty Thursday evening.

“We recognize that releasing this report cannot erase the past,” the email read. “We do, however, hope that by acknowledging this history, sharing this report, and expressing our sincere apology, it will be possible to advance the process of healing that is so thoroughly deserved by those in our community who have been harmed.”

The investigation of sexual abuse at Maret follows similar revelations at Key School in Annapolis. Several former students told The Washington Post in August 2018 they were groomed and sexually abused by teachers in the 1970s.

St. Albans School in Northwest Washington also launched a sexual misconduct investigation in February after a former teacher was implicated in abuse at Key School.

In April, a group of parents sued the preschool at Washington Hebrew Congregation, alleging that the school ignored warning signs while a teacher sexually abused at least seven toddlers for more than a year.