Headmasters Behaving Badly

Heroin, sexual abuse, and murder are just some of the activities of those charged with overseeing private school students.

Facebook/Sacramento County Sheriff

Headmasters are in a unique position of power to mold the minds of impressionable young students. But many—and we mean many—fail to maintain an admirable pedagogical paradigm. Private schools have a way of being a magnet for scandals for the creepy, inappropriate adults who run them. From New England to Marin County, headmasters across the country have abused their power in the most disturbing, egregious, and criminal ways possible. Here is a spotlight on the pedophiles, murderers, and jackasses who parents have paid tens of thousands of dollars to oversee their children.

The Branson School

Even in a “dynamic and vibrant learning community,” there’s little wiggle room for a headmaster who is found with a pile of heroin and a 21-year-old woman who’s passed out cold. Branson School headmaster Dr. Thomas Woodrow Price II was forced to resign last month after he was arrested in a Sacramento hotel enveloped in an alleged stash of cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription drugs, heroin—oh, and Brittney Hall, a woman young enough to be his daughter, lying unconscious on the bed. The Branson School holds an elite reputation in tony Marin County, charging around $40,000 a year for tuition. Unsurprisingly, Price has been banned from the Branson School’s campus.

The Brooks School

The Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts has an illustrious list of alumni, including former Congressman John LeBoutillier, Home Depot CEO Frank Blake, and everyone’s favorite television lawyer James Spader. But a sex scandal involving the school’s headmaster dragged its most famous alum, Steven Forbes, into the fray. In 2013, it was revealed that Lawrence W. Becker, who served as the Brooks School’s headmaster from 1986 to 2008, had an “objectionable, manipulative” relationship with a student in the late 1990s. To add insult to injury, he procured male escorts while traveling for school business. Forbes served as a president of the Brooks School board of trustees when Becker’s inappropriate extracurricular activities with a student were brought to his attention, and he never disciplined the headmaster. While Forbes Media spokeswoman Mia Carbonell stressed that Becker’s student relationship did “not involve sexual abuse,” the financial mogul didn’t come out looking much better than the hooker-loving headmaster.

Oregon Episcopal School

In the grand history of headmaster scandals, Matthew Hanley’s offenses while serving the Oregon Episcopal School are relatively tame. His 2009 downfall was rooted in some flirtatious exchanges with another male school headmaster that were sent through his work email. Parents were shocked when Hanley’s work email was leaked to reveal messages like “I hope to see more of you… is that southern charm for you want to have sex?? ;-)” It didn’t help that Hanely was still technically married—and appeared happily so to outsiders. Hanley was forced to come out of the closet and resign all at once. While certainly unprofessional to flirt via his work email, it is hard to think Hanely’s interactions would have caused such a stir if he hadn’t been married or if they had been with a woman.

Saint Ann’s

Stanley Bosworth led the proudly progressive Saint Ann’s in Brooklyn Heights for decades before being forced to resign. His exit was just in time. Months before the end of his tenure a New York magazine profile got him on the record extolling his very liberal views towards sexual relations between students—and with their teachers. “We had some idiot half-dyke, you’ll forgive me, some health counselor who said, We’re going to talk about condoms, blah, blah, blah. And I said, ‘Why don’t you talk about clits?’ I get worries from parents if they sleep together. If they’re affectionate, they’re affectionate! We don’t require anything,” he said. A student recalled how it was well known that teachers slept with students, and Bosworth didn’t care: “Stanley was condoning it by making fun of it. He told me, ‘I don’t know why any [teacher] would want to have sex with a virgin: It’s like having a mummy!’” Bosworth himself married a former student who was thirty years his junior. They eventually divorced, but to add an extra level of incest, she was hired to work at Saint Ann’s alongside another former Mrs. Bosworth.

Indian Mountain School

The Salisbury, Conn., boarding school had already faced a barrage of abuse charges when a former student claimed his headmaster had made him and other students live in his basement to fulfill his sexual needs. Peter Carleton had been dead for nearly two decades when William Brewster Brownville sued the Indian Mountain School in October 2014 for more than $75,000 in damages. His suit alleges some incredibly gruesome things against Carleton, including that he plied male students with whiskey and encouraged them to masturbate. Brownville said he was ordered to live in Carleton’s home along with three other boys and was called up to the headmaster’s bedroom at least once a week to be sexually abused. According to his suit, Carleton would rotate four new boys into his home every semester. Carleton, who was also an executive of the Fresh Air Fund, was cited as failing to stop sexual abuse when a number of lawsuits were filed against the Indian Mountain School in the late 1990s, but he was never named an abuser. Brownville’s lawyer described the Indian Mountain School as a “nest of pedophiles.”

The Madeira School

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Head mistress Jean Harris is the ultimate proof of “Hell Hath No Fury like a Woman Scorned.” Harris set quite an example for her charges at the all-girls boarding school in Virginia when she killed her ex-lover, Herman Tarnower, the famous “Scarsdale Diet” doctor, in 1980. Harris drove five hours from Madeira’s McLean, Va., campus to Purchase, N.Y., to shoot Tarnower dead in his home when she grew frustrated with his new relationship with Lynn Tryforos, a receptionist at his medical office that was thirty years his junior. The murder and subsequent trial made national news and splashed across New York tabloid headlines for months. Harris was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Bedford, N.Y., but was granted clemency in 1993 by Gov. Mario Cuomo. She would go onto live almost another two decades in freedom, dying in 2012 at the age of 89. Plus, she can always say she had the last word.