The Spectator Debate: Is boarding school cruel?

Rather than “cruel”, maybe boarding schools are “damaging” instead? Boarding School Syndrome anyone?

“For Alex Renton prep boarding is a hideous anachronism, for Lara Prendergast a source of fun and friendship”

The Spectator

Decades of sex abuse at elite all-girls boarding school

An elite all-girls boarding school in New York has released a report detailing nearly seven decades of sexual abuse and misconduct, with both male and female educators accused of engaging in improper relationships with students.

The 127-page report released Tuesday spans misconduct at the Emma Willard School in Troy from the late 1950s through the 2015-16 academic year, including instances of rape, sexual assault and harassment, as well as the “grooming” of young women for affairs.

Byron Shire News (USA)

Catholic priest jailed for St Joseph’s College sex abuse

The victim of a former priest who has been jailed for sex abuse at a Catholic boarding school said he cried so often “I could have drowned in my own tears”.

Father Michael Higginbottom was found guilty of the “cruel and sadisticabuse of a teenage boy at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, Lancashire.

He was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of four counts each of a serious sexual offence and indecent assault.

The 74-year-old, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, was jailed for 17 years.

The court heard the victim, now in his 50s, was aged between 13 and 14 at the time of the abuse, which began about a week after arriving at the school.

He said he was locked in Higginbottom’s living quarters and ordered to undress before being sexually assaulted.

BBC News

Liverpool Echo

Stiff Upper Lip by Alex Renton review – the damage boarding schools have done

The Old Etonian John Julius Norwich, asked for a memory that he thought summed up the spirit of his school, offered the following: after a boy had killed himself “the housemaster summoned the whole house and asked if anybody could suggest a reason. The young David Ormsby-Gore put up his hand and said, ‘Could it have been the food, sir?’” This strikes me as appallingly funny; or funny and appalling. It captures – in its black bad taste and high-stakes insouciance – some of what public schools teach their students. Nothing is so serious it can’t be a joke – and the joke, as Alex Renton notes, both fences with authority and obscurely reinforces it.

In 2014, Renton wrote in the Observer about his experiences in the boarding prep school Ashdown House, describing how he was sexually molested by a teacher; and how, when his contemporaries complained about abuse, they were themselves savagely punished for sneaking. In response to his article, he heard from hundreds with similar stories.

Here is a wide-ranging inquiry into the phenomenon of boarding schools in the UK. Renton paints a picture of class-based groupthink, made-up traditions, contagious snobbery and – in Larkin’s phrase – man handing on misery to man, and it deepening like a coastal shelf. It is striped with pungent quotations from those who have been through the system and been hurt by it. What’s most odd is that parents who had themselves been deeply unhappy at school went on, generation after generation, to send their children to the same places. Renton suggests that “normalisation” – rationalising the pain by deciding that it was good for you after all, or that your parents knew best – may be the psychological mechanism at work.

The Guardian

Boarding school priest accused of ‘horrific’ sex abuse

A Catholic priest who repeatedly sexually abused a teenage student breached his position of trust in a “spectacular and horrific” way, a court has heard.

Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, is accused of subjecting the teenage boy to repeated sexual abuse when he worked as a teacher at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, Lancashire, in the late 1970s.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the boy, aged between 13 and 14 at the time of the allegations, said he would be struck with a strap if he did not attend Higginbottom’s living quarters, where much of the abuse was alleged to have happened, at appointed times.

The boarding school, which has now closed, was attended by boys aged 11 to 18, many of whom were considering a career in the priesthood.

ITV News

BBC News

Alex Renton: Fear, lies and abuse: the private school cover-up

When Alex Renton wrote about being abused at boarding school, he didn’t anticipate the huge response. Or that he’d end up breaking down in a police station

It is, they say, good to tell the story. Let it out: nightmares are best cured by daylight. But what do you do next? Three years ago I decided to come out as a survivor of abuse, physical and psychological, at boarding school. I’m a journalist, so I did what comes naturally: I published an article in a magazine. I went back to my famous prep school, where a police investigation had begun. Ashdown House had made the front page of the Daily Mail because Boris Johnson, Damian Lewis and the Queen’s nephew David Linley had been there.

The Times (subscription required)

Longer article on Alex Renton’s blog.