Newspaper: Student accused of assault baked bread as penance

An elite New Hampshire prep school says it has "grave concern" about the reported assault of a female student and the way it in which it was initially resolved: with the male student accused of groping her having to bake bread for her as an act of weekly "penance."

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday the 17-year-old girl told two Phillips Exeter Academy deans in the fall about her allegations. She later met with a campus minister, the Rev. Robert Thompson, and the boy.

Thompson urged her to reconcile with the student and having him do "penance" by bringing her weekly batches of his bread, which he baked and sold on campus, the newspaper reported.

The girl first agreed to the arrangement, but eventually felt additional stress by seeing the student every week, the Globe reported. She went to police in May.

The male student, Chukwudi Ikpeazu, 18, of Parkland, Florida, is scheduled to be arraigned on a misdemeanor sexual assault charge on Aug. 16. His attorney declined to comment to the Globe and did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Phillips Exeter spokeswoman Robin Giampa said in statement Thursday that "this incident and the manner in which it was handled, which left one of our students feeling that she was not well served, are both of grave concern to the leadership of the school."

She added: "This case is in the hands of legal authorities who are still investigating, and we don't yet have all the facts. As a result, we cannot comment further, other than to say we approach this investigation with humility, openness and a sincere desire to improve."

Exeter Police Chief Bill Shupe said his department is working with the Rockingham County Attorney's office on "all aspects of the investigation."

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests has called for Thompson to be fired, saying he made "an arrogant, self-serving and perhaps illegal decision to stay silent about a sexual assault and take it upon himself to fashion a ridiculous agreement that minimized the horror" experienced by the girl.

Thompson didn't immediately return a phone message left Thursday.

The Portsmouth Herald reported that hundreds of alumni have signed an open letter to the school's board of trustees that says the administration is "more focused on concealing sexual assault than on addressing it, more interested in favorable press coverage than in the health of its students."

This year, two teachers at Phillips Exeter acknowledged sexual misconduct and a former admissions officer pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse charges. Police are investigating other accusations.


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