Officials at the Carolina Friends School in Chapel Hill say they’ve learned of numerous instances of sexual abuse that took place at the school between 1969 and 1976, at the hands of a former principal and a former teacher.
Current principal Mike Hanas released a statement Wednesday, following an internal investigation triggered by a discussion on a listserv in the fall of 2012. The Orange County Sheriff’s office was also involved, but Hanas says their investigation has been put on hold – as the incidents in question would qualify as misdemeanors, not felonies, and the statute of limitations has long expired.
Still, Hanas says the school is trying to be as proactive as possible in its response.
He joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the Wednesday Evening News to speak about the incidents and the school’s response.
Principal Mike Hanas’s full statement is below.
Carolina Friends School has learned that a former principal sexually abused several students during their lower and middle school years between 1969 and 1975. One of those students has also shared that he was sexually abused in the spring of 1976 by a former Middle School teacher.
This news is heartbreaking.
We are humbled by the strength of our former students who had the courage to share their experiences with us. We have personally expressed our deepest apologies to each of these former students on behalf of the school community. It is our hope that our public acknowledgement of the harm these former students suffered may provide some small measure of healing.
Even though these events occurred four decades ago, we are keenly aware that the passage of time has not diminished the impact of these events.
When we learned of these allegations, we hired two of the nation’s leading experts on child abuse and sexual misconduct to conduct an independent review and help guide us toward an appropriate response. During the investigation, five former students shared their accounts of inappropriate touching by Harold Jernigan, a former principal. One of the five students also shared an account of inappropriate touching by Charles William (Bill) Butcher, a former teacher.
We shared this information with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange County District Attorney, and the Orange County Department of Social Services. While law enforcement has shared that the acts in question may be beyond the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, their review remains open. We will continue to cooperate with and support law enforcement in any continued investigation.
Our first responsibility at CFS is the well being of our students – past, current, and future. We are fiercely determined to learn from this experience and will do everything in our power to prevent it from happening again. We have engaged in a comprehensive review of our existing policies and practices and taken a number of steps to strengthen the protection of our current and future students. This includes enhanced protocols around background checks, ongoing training and educational programs, protective policies to ensure appropriate oversight of adult-student interactions, and guidelines to encourage and support professional boundaries and relationships between adults and children.
Any individuals who have relevant information to share regarding sexual abuse are encouraged to contact Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Tina Sykes at 919.644.3050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.