Published April 14, 2017
A Spanish teacher at the prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school who was fired amid sexual assault allegations by two students in 1999 was able to continue his education career for the next 18 years at several other schools that weren't notified of the allegations, according to a new report.
Jaime Rivera is among 12 former faculty and staff members named in the Choate report released Thursday accusing them of sexual misconduct while at the Wallingford school, whose famous alumni include John F. Kennedy, Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Ivanka Trump.
The report, prepared by a former prosecutor and other investigators hired by Choate, includes allegations from 24 former students of misconduct between 1963 and 2010 including kissing, sexual intercourse and forced sexual intercourse.
No one answered a phone listing for Rivera on Friday. The report says he denied the allegations.
Rivera was fired by Choate shortly after the alleged acts. But he went on to teach or be an administrator at schools including Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury; Harrison High School in Harrison, New York; and Newtown High School and Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, Connecticut.
Rivera resigned as principal of Wamogo on April 6, after having been placed on leave last month after the school district's superintendent was informed by Choate officials about the allegations, according to the report.
Choate officials did not notify police, state child welfare officials or other schools of the allegations involving the 12 faculty and staff, school officials and the report said. After confirming allegations, school officials handled the cases "internally and quietly," the report said.
Report investigators said they did not analyze whether Choate officials broke any state laws in not reporting the allegations to the state or police. The report noted, however, that many students did not report the misconduct after it allegedly took place and school officials only learned of the allegations years later.
The report comes after a series of sexual abuse scandals at other exclusive New England boarding schools, including Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire; Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts; and St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island.
In a practice called "passing the trash," teachers suspected of misconduct were forced out of their jobs but were able to get new jobs at a different school, sometimes with a glowing recommendation. A 2015 federal mandate requires states to address the practice.
Choate officials did not provide references or recommendations for Rivera, the report says.
During the investigation, Choate officials learned the alleged incidents involving Rivera had not been reported to the state Department of Children and Families, as required by law, so they reported them to the department and to Wamogo officials, school spokeswoman Lorraine Connelly said Friday.
During a school study abroad trip to Costa Rica in 1999, Rivera allegedly grabbed a 15-year-old student's breast and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old student on the same night in a swimming pool at a resort. The two girls' stories were confirmed by two other students, the report said.
The report said Rivera acknowledged drinking alcohol with the students at the pool, but denied engaging in any sexual misconduct. He said that after swimming with students and others, he also went to a bar in the resort and drank "local moonshine" before returning to his room.
The students told a school nurse-counselor in Wallingford the morning after, and Rivera was summoned back to Choate, where he was fired, according to the report. Rivera said he denied the allegations but agreed to leave the school because he wasn't prepared to fight "a huge institution" like Choate, the report said.