A Rockport Middle School guidance counselor is under investigation regarding two allegations of fondling former students more than 25 years ago at Beverly’s private, residential Landmark School, where the now 57-year-old man worked as assistant dean of students.
Howard J. Kasper allegedly inappropriately touched two students, in 1979 and 1984, when he was working as assistant dean at the Landmark School, according to a series of reports, including an investigative story that surfaced in Wednesday’s Boston Globe.
There have been no allegations against Kasper by students at Rockport Middle School, where Kasper has worked since leaving Landmark School in 2000, new Superintendent of Schools Robert Liebow told the Times Wednesday.
Liebow said the administration has been investigating Kasper since being notified on July 24 of the alleged Landmark School incidents.
“Although the events described in the Boston Globe did not take place in Rockport, we take them very seriously,” Liebow wrote in a letter sent Wednesday addressing parents, staffers and others in the “Rockport Public School community.
“I want to assure you,” Lebow wrote, “that our overriding focus will be to act in the best interests of the children we serve and that their continued safety will drive our decision-making process.”
Principal Philip Conrad deferred all comment to the superintendent.
Kasper remains employed at the school, according to Liebow.
“There’s an ongoing investigation and everything is subject to change based on that investigation, which at this time is not completed,” Liebow said in a telephone interview. Kasper did not return calls to his home seeking comment.
Robert J. Broudo, president and headmaster of the Landmark School, wrote a letter to the school’s community Tuesday, saying that he believes all sexual harassment and abuse cases throughout the school’s 42-year history, at least four of which he recounts, have been “handled appropriately.”
Broudo wrote that one allegation against Kasper surfaced in 1994, when the former student, reported by the Globe to be Colorado businessman David G. Breed, approached faculty to report an alleged incident that occurred ikn 1979. The other allegation against Kasper, the Globe reported, came to light in July, sparked by Breed’s demand that the school reopen its investigation.
According to The Globe report, Breed accused the school of doing nothing when he first reported the incident.
But Broudo said that when he approached the accused faculty member about allegedly sexually abusing Breed, the faculty member “vigorously denied” the claims. Broudo wrote that he relayed the alleged denial to Breed, who then chose to stop pursuing the matter.
“Each of these cases was resolved to the satisfaction of the student involved,” Broudo wrote Tuesday.
Neither Broudo’s letter nor Liebow’s Wednesday letter to Rockport parents refer to Kasper by name. But Landmark began an investigation recently, informing Rockport Schools and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, among others, of the accusations, according to Broudo.
Broudo wrote that the state’s child protection agency is unlikely to pursue this case because the alleged victim is now an adult.
The Essex County District Attorney’s office learned of the allegations Tuesday afternoon, according to spokesman Steve O’Connell. But, O’Connell said the office could neither confirm nor deny whether there was an ongoing investigation. O’Connell gave no further comment.
In Liebow’s letter to the community Wednesday, he wrote the school is “following all the steps required by due process rights to address the situation and determine what our immediate course of action will be.” Liebow said the school’s attorney has also contacted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the DA’s office.
“Although legal guidelines constrain me from sharing any further comment about this matter at this time, I felt it important to reach out to you (the community) and acknowledge the Globe’s article and the fact that the School Administration is moving quickly to address a difficult situation,” Liebow wrote, vowing to keep parents informed.
Town Selectman Paul Murphy, who is also assistant principal at Manchester Essex High School, said Wednesday, though while the allegations are serious, he urges the community to be patient and trust in the investigative process.
“These allegations are very disturbing,” Murphy said. “But I cannot say enough not to rush to judgement and to let the investigation take its course.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.