Trial begins for teenager expelled by Phillips Exeter Academy for having sex
CONCORD — A former Phillips Exeter Academy student took the stand in his trial against the prep school, who he believes unfairly expelled him for a sexual encounter with a female student.
Because both parties are underage, they will remain unnamed during the case.
John Doe, 15 and Jane Roe, 15 both admit to a sexual encounter on January 24, 2016. The encounter happened on campus in a mutual friends dorm room. About a month later, Jane reported the incident to health services and an investigation was launched.
The legal age for consent in New Hampshire is 16 years old. Both parties were under the legal age and so the school notified DCYF, Exeter Police and the student's parents.
In the beginning, John Doe and his parents communicated with the school and said they were informed no disciplinary action would be taken because both parties consented. Exeter Police did not pursue the case and no charges were filed.
A dean placed John on leave for the spring trimester and recommended he undergo counseling. The Doe family said he complied but was informed in August of 2016 that Phillips Exeter would not allow him to return to campus for fall of 2016.
Attorneys for John Doe said the school did not follow protocol. They said he should have had a meeting with a disciplinary committee and the school overreacted under pressure to unrelated incidents.
"Exeter was involved in a media frenzy," the attorney said, referring to the school dealing with accusations of mishandling previous sexual assault incidents.
Phillips Exeter said it made no "contractual promise" the boy would be allowed to return and said he violated the school's sexual-misconduct policies.
The lawsuit seeks a refund of tuition and other school-related expenses, plus money for therapy, travel and unspecified damages for emotional distress.
The lawsuit also requests that the boy be reinstated at Phillips Exeter. He enrolled in another private school after leaving Phillips Exeter.
"Unless 'John' can return to Exeter, he will lose the academic opportunities he expected to have there which are virtually unparalleled, and his future prospects are harmed," a court document filed by the mother's lawyers said.
Phillips Exeter said the student handbook is not an enforceable contract.
Earlier this year, two teachers at the school acknowledged sexual misconduct and a former admissions officer pleaded not guilty to sexual-abuse charges. A 2016 graduate was charged with sexually assaulting a female student. Police are investigating other accusations at the private school.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.