PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An alumna sued a Pennsylvania boarding school Friday, weeks after a grand jury report detailed a half-century of sexual abuse there, accusing the school of ignoring warnings the athletic director was sexually involved with her.
The "Jane Doe" accuser said the Solebury School's permissive atmosphere enabled staff to prey on vulnerable teens. The woman, now 29, said that athletic director Lyle Hazel started grooming her in 10th grade and started a sexual relationship in 12th grade that continued for years and left her unable to finish college.
"It's like so many of these Solebury relationships, where the teacher gets the student while they're there, and they extend it for years after. It's because of the environment," the woman's lawyer, Marci Hamilton said.
Hazel, 49, of Roebling, New Jersey, was later fired from the school in New Hope for embezzling $4,000 from his department, the lawsuit said. A phone listing for him could not be found Friday.
Hazel invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself during his grand jury testimony, the report said. He and his wife lived at the school with their child.
Solebury School head Tom Wilschutz said Friday the woman came forward in response to a letter the school sent in 2014 seeking potential victims. Wilschutz pledged to be "vigilant" in following new policies to prevent the type of sexual abuse described in the former student's lawsuit.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, who issued the grand jury report, called Solebury's long-standing tolerance of sexual abuse "unconscionable." Only one teacher was ever charged with a sex crime, in the 1990s.
The report described nine adults who sexually abused students at the Bucks County school since the 1950s, but only "Jane Doe" can still file suit.
Hamilton, the woman's lawyer, said she does not want to pursue criminal charges given the ordeal of a trial.
Solebury costs as much as $55,000 a year for boarders; the school encourages informality and social interaction between staff and students, the lawsuit said.