Prep school principal who confronted abuse leaving post

The principal at an elite New Hampshire prep school who helped respond to allegations of sexual abuse against former staff members and students is leaving at the end of the year.

In a letter sent to the school community on Friday, Phillips Exeter Academy Principal Lisa MacFarlane said she would be returning to the University of New Hampshire, where she worked for 28 years before taking over at Exeter in 2015.

During MacFarlane's tenure at Exeter, she helped respond to accusations of past sexual misconduct and the mishandling of those cases at the school.

In her letter, MacFarlane said Exeter was the first among schools of its kind to establish a director of student well-being and the school's work to serve current students and alumni survivors is a model for other institutions.

"Lisa has tirelessly led our school through a challenging period in its history," said Trustee President John Downer.

MacFarlane also is credited with modernizing the campus.

Concerns about sex abuse at Exeter first were raised following 2016 revelations about a former teacher who was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s. Last year another teacher was fired amid allegations he had sexual encounters with a student decades ago.

Those cases prompted the school to launch its own investigation, leading to a report in which it identified five more former staff members accused of abuse. A law firm commissioned by Phillips Exeter identified four teachers and a psychologist accused of sexually inappropriate behavior involving eight students from 1966 to the 1980s.

Three of the accused have died. The other two were barred from campus.