ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police reports and court documents show that the head of Shattuck-St. Mary's School agreed to pay $12,500 to a teacher who had child pornography on his work computer to get him to quietly leave, years before the teacher was charged and convicted of sexually abusing students at the school.
Minnesota Public Radio reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1Aw4PFO ) that the money was part of a confidential separation agreement that the Episcopal prep school in Faribault negotiated with teacher Lynn Seibel.
The agreement came two years after an internal investigation was unable to substantiate claims that the teacher had sexually abused students. It was nine more years before Seibel was criminally charged with possessing child pornography and sexually abusing six students at the boarding and day school from 1999 to 2003. The child pornography charge was later dropped, and Seibel pleaded guilty to several counts of criminal sexual conduct. He is scheduled to be released from prison in December.
MPR reported that the documents show how the head of school, Nick Stoneman, who is now the school's president, worked with the school's lawyer to approve a mutually agreed-upon resignation letter in which Seibel said he wanted to pursue an acting career. The resignation letter didn't mention the child pornography that would later result in criminal charges. And Stoneman's decision not to contact police made it possible for Seibel to find work at a Rhode Island modeling school, where he taught children as young as 7, the report said.
School spokesman Jon Austin said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday that the report created a misleading picture of the actions the school took to remove Seibel.
"The crux of the matter is simple: did we do the right thing in deciding to remove Lynn Seibel from our school and did we do it the right way? Even with the benefit of 12 years of hindsight, we believe we made the right decision for the right reasons, made with the facts as we knew them," Austin said.
The Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement saying Stoneman should be fired.
Stoneman gave a sworn deposition in an abuse lawsuit last year in which he said the child pornography was not a factor in Seibel's departure, which came about a month after the images were confirmed by experts.
"Seibel is separated from the school because of the adult pornography on his computer and in part because he did not take responsibility for that," Stoneman testified. "Neither of those to me posed an immediate threat to any students."
In a written statement to MPR, Shattuck-St. Mary's described the deal with Seibel as a standard separation agreement with generic terms. It said the school's lawyers determined at the time it had no legal obligation to report the child pornography to police.
The statement said Seibel had blamed the child pornography on a "pop-up infestation," and that an investigation by the school's counsel appeared to support his claim.
In a sworn deposition in the same lawsuit last year, Seibel said his resignation deal was handled "beautifully." He said he had been concerned that someone would call police and that he was glad to depart quietly.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org