Five former students at Carolina Friends School in Durham have reported they were sexually abused by a former principal, Harold Jernigan between 1969 and 1975. One of those students also allegedly was the victim of inappropriate touching by a former teacher, Bill Butcher. The victims were in their lower and middle school years when the incidents allegedly happened.
All the victims were boys.
The incidents came to light in 2012, when several alumni reported them to school officials. The school then hired two of the nation’s leading experts on child abuse and sexual misconduct to conduct an independent review, according to a letter on the Carolina Friends School website.
"As we worked to gather the facts, we reached out to both former staff members," the letter reads. "We received no response from Harold Jernigan despite reaching out to him directly and through his family. We did have the opportunity to speak with Bill Butcher, who immediately said that he did not wish to deny or contradict the allegations and expressed remorse for the anguish and harm he had caused. He has agreed to participate in a reconciliation process, if sought by the former student."
According to an online database search both Jernigan and Butcher are still living. Jernigan lives in New Jersey; Butcher in North Carolina.
No charges have been filed because, according to Orange County law enforcement officials, the statutes at the time—more than 40 years ago—regarded the nature of the incidents as misdemeanors. Although there is no statute of limitations on felonies, in this case, it has expired on 40-year-old misdemeanors.
However, the investigation remains open, and, the letter said, "we cannot foreclose the disclosure by others of additional behaviors that may be within the statute of limitations."
Carolina Friends School officials also have notified subsequent schools, both Quaker, where Jernigan and Butcher were employed, of the incidents.
The Carolina Friends School issued a statement
late this afternoon. Here is the full text of the press release:
"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."