A yearlong investigation released Wednesday has found 21 former employees at a Portland private school have been accused of sexual impropriety, ranging from criminal abuse to inappropriate boundary crossing.
The investigation of Catlin Gabel was conducted by attorney Lori Watson at the request of the board of trustees. The trustees asked for it “in the fall of 2018, in response to public Facebook posts regarding past teacher sexual misconduct at Catlin Gabel,” according to the report.
The alleged misconduct dates from the 1960s to 2016, perpetrated by people who no longer work at the school.
The report identifies six former employees by name, including two former teachers – Richard “Dick” Shoemaker and Robert Ashe – who were accused of unwanted sexual contact with students spanning more than two decades.
In Shoemaker’s case, students came forward in the 90s to complain about his behavior, including inappropriate touching and kissing, and having female middle school students sit on his lap.The report says that allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced in late 2018, after Shoemaker died in August of that year.
The report alleges Ashe attempted to kiss a student in the back seat of a car and to have sex with a student during a trip abroad — both occurring in the 1970s. The report alleges eight specific behaviors from Ashe, but “the above alleged conduct was not reported to Catlin Gabel at the time it occurred.”
Another former teacher, Mark Peterson, acknowledged an inappropriate sexual relationship with a high school senior, saying he was “young and stupid.” The report says “[Peterson] invited her to his apartment when his wife was not home. While there, he asked her questions of a sexual nature. He had her touch his penis. He wanted to have sex but she did not, so they refrained.”
Two other former teachers, Stephen Richmond and Samuel Crawley, denied the accusations. The report alleges that Richmond groomed and touched two male middle school students in the 1970s, among several other accusations of misconduct. The report accuses Crawley of making sexual advances toward a female student, and telling her, “I’m so attracted to you, but we can’t have sex until you’re 18.” Crawley and the student “began a sexual relationship the weekend of her birthday.”
The sixth former employee the report identifies by name is Deonte Huff, a former coach and PE teacher who was fired in 2013 after he was accused of sexual abuse. Huff later pled guilty to criminal sex abuse.
The report also summarizes sexual misconduct by three more individuals who weren’t identified because doing so could reveal the identities of victims who wanted to remain anonymous. Their misconduct ranged from obscene phone calls to sex with middle and upper school students.
Investigator Lori Watson didn’t proactively seek out victims to avoid the risk of re-traumatizing them. Instead, the school shared Watson’s contact information with the broader Catlin Gabel community. School administrators said there is “no end date” to their investigation of additional abuse reports.