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Globe Spotlight Team: Private Schools, Painful Secrets


Private schools, painful secrets

More than 200 victims. At least 90 legal claims. At least 67 private schools in New England. This is the story of hundreds of students sexually abused by staffers, and emerging from decades of silence today.

This story was reported by Spotlight team reporters Jenn Abelson, Bella English, Jonathan Saltzman, and Todd Wallack, with editors Scott Allen and Amanda Katz.

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Steven Starr reached into the back of his hallway closet and fished out the old camera, a gift nearly 50 years ago from the man he says molested him.

“It’s like a talisman or a grim reminder,’’ he said, holding the dusty Minolta Autocord in his Los Angeles apartment. Not that he could ever forget what he alleges happened to him when he was 11 at the Fessenden School.

In 1968, he was a lonely sixth-grader from Long Island when he met James Dallmann, a Harvard graduate who taught geography at the all-boys private school in West Newton and was an avid photographer.

Dallmann took Starr under his wing. He made the boy his apprentice and encouraged him to visit the teacher’s bedroom in their dorm at Moore Hall after lights out to learn how to use his makeshift darkroom. The teacher photographed Starr and delighted the boy by giving him the twin-lens Minolta.

Then one night, Starr said, Dallmann served him a mix of Tang and vodka, got him to pose naked for pictures on a bed, and performed oral sex on him. This is our secret, Dallmann told Starr, who said the abuse went on for about a year.

For nearly half a century, Starr kept his feelings of betrayal and humiliation inside, sharing his story only with therapists and a few confidants.

But now he is among a growing number of former students at New England private schools who are breaking their silence about sexual abuse by staffers. They are emboldened by a cascade of recent revelations about cases — many of them decades old — that were often ignored or covered up when first reported, and that school administrators still struggle to handle appropriately today . . . .

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/06/private-schools-painful-secrets/OaRI9PFpRnCTJxCzko5hkN/story.html