Grand jury: Decades of sexual abuse at Solebury School

NEW HOPE, Pa. (WPVI) -- Shocking news came from a Bucks County grand jury Wednesday morning that the Solebury School outside New Hope was the scene of a cover-up for 50 years to hide sexual relationships between faculty and students.

Solebury is known as a progressive school, but the Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said this was child predation under the guise of progressive education.

"It was culturally accepted at this school that if you were employed there it was OK if you wanted to have sexual relations with your students. There were no lines of authority, the lines were blurred," said Weintraub.

The report details sexual offenses from the 1950s through 2005. The grand jury heard from six former students - a 7th case was already prosecuted. They described sexual activity with faculty and staff members, both on campus and in cities miles away - all of it enabled by an environment free of boundaries.

"The students were encouraged to call the teachers by their first names, they were encouraged to take trips outside of the purview of the school with their faculty. And whenever that occurs, as it did for many, many years here, the lines are no longer there," said Weintraub.

Victims testified they went to multiple headmasters over the years, but the sexual contact was never reported or investigated. One victim, now a senior citizen, testified: "I want people to understand, Yes, I'm 77, but I want you to understand this has been with me my whole life."

"These children, now adults, now senior citizens, have been condemned to a life sentence," said Weintraub.

Only recently, the current head of school learned of the abuses and encouraged students to come forward, leading to the grand jury. In a statement, Tom Wilshutz apologized to the victims, adding "The individuals who committed these acts violated Solebury's principles and values; their actions are indefensible."

The grand jury named nine individuals who it says could have been prosecuted. However, the statute of limitations bars prosecution from all but one case, and the victim in that case does not want to pursue charges.

The grand jury recommended serious reform at the school. Some of those measures have already been put into place.
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