Episcopal

Image via Google Maps

After a five-month investigation led by Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson, Episcopal High School has been unable to corroborate a complaint that an employee had sexually assaulted a former student several years ago.

Moreover, Pierson “has found no evidence of any other allegation of sexual misconduct on a student by any current or former employee,” according to a new release issued by the school Wednesday morning.

Sgt. Don Coppola, a spokesman for Baton Rouge Police, said Wednesday that it too has closed its investigation in this allegation after it was unable to find probable cause to bring charges but could reopen the investigation if new information emerged.

Episcopal High described the accused as a former employee who was relieved of duties after the allegations came to light in September, but they never provided the employee's identity. The school also did not identify the former student. The allegation was that sexual misconduct occurred during 2010 and 2011, but the nature of the misconduct was not disclosed.

The prominent Baton Rouge private school, at 3200 Woodland Ridge Blvd., has been unusually public about its investigation, announcing both its start and what it uncovered in news releases. The school asserted that the allegation was unprecedented, that “current members of the board and leaders of the school know of no other allegations of this type in the school's 50-year history."

The private school's board set up a special committee to investigate the complaint and promptly hired Pierson as its investigator. The school also went so far as to mail and email alumni to thousands of alumni and asked them to fill out an anonymous online survey where they could provide the school "any relevant information about this allegation, or any incident of which they were aware." A special Post Office box, which Pierson said she had the only key to, was set up for anyone who preferred to send something by mail.

The school also made public Wednesday the three-page executive summary of Pierson’s report, which was dated last Thursday.

“The investigation, outlined in the preceding paragraphs, was as thorough as it could be,” Pierson concluded. “Every lead was followed to its conclusion.”

Katheryn Flournoy, the chairwoman of Episcopal's 22-member board of directors, signed the statement issued Wednesday. She would not answer any followup questions: "The school has nothing further to add to the communication that has been released at this time."

In her statement, Flournoy said the school is prepared to put Pierson back to work if new allegations come to light and encourages anyone who hasn’t come forward yet to come forward now.

“Today, we remain vigilant, serious, and open to receive information about sexual misconduct by any current or former Episcopal employee,” Flournoy said in the statement. “That is a moral position which we owe to you, our community.”

In her report, Pierson said she was hired in part because she has no “professional, business or personal” ties to the school or “any of its teachers, staff or students.”

“At the outset, it was made clear to me that (Episcopal High) was determined to leave no stone unturned in the investigation into the allegations or any others that may be reported,” Pierson wrote.

In addition to the alumni outreach, Pierson said she was given rosters of teacher, parents, students and staff for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, which she used to send “more specific emails” to “parents and teachers of the class of the former student.” She said she then spoke either in person or over the phone who responded.

Pierson said that every individual she spoke with gave the same response: “not only did all respondents deny that they had any knowledge of any misconduct or inappropriate behavior by the former employee, they affirmatively stated that the employee was excellent and effective while employed, always prepared and well-liked by parents and students alike.”

Throughout, Pierson said she shared what she was finding the investigators with the Baton Rouge Police Department. She said recently she spoke with the detective in charge of the investigation who informed her that he had spoken with the family of the alleged victim to let them know that police had found no probable cause to make an arrest.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.