Faribault residents react to allegations against former teachers at Shattuck-St. Mary'sby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
FARIBAULT , Minn. — The local community has been jolted in the last few days as sexual misconduct allegations against a former drama teacher emerge at Shattuck-St. Mary's School.
Lynn Phillip Seibel was charged with 15 counts of criminal sexual misconduct and two pornography related charges. Police say other possible victims have contacted officials in recent days.
Faribault is a picturesque community dominated by churches, shops on Main Street, and the elite, prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's, which sits on a hill overlooking the town.
Since the sexual misconduct scandal broke, Shattuck-St. Mary's School officials said they have handled the allegations properly and according to school policy.
But around town, people have questions.
Maryann Kaul, 66, is a retired psychiatric nurse who grew up in Faribault. Like many here, Kaul is shocked by the allegations against Seibel and said the school should have reported the incidents to authorities when they first suspected sexual misconduct.
" I mean, we all know what the boundaries are about reporting abuse. You report rather than not report. You always report suspicion, not fact," Kaul said. "I'm just really sad that the school didn't follow through in the way everybody knows they should have. "
Authorities still differ on whether the school fulfilled its responsibility to report allegations of abuse.
Faribault police say they were not told of a 2001 incident with Seibel that the school claims to have reported, or of the school's discovery of child pornography on Seibel's computer in 2003.
Rice County Administrator Gery Weiers said county authorities were also not told. The county's social service division is another agency that might have investigated allegations of child sex abuse.
Shattuck-St. Mary's did not report to Rice County Social Services any of the allegations which gave rise to the prosecution of Mr. Seibel, Weiers said.
School officials have declined all requests for interviews. In a statement Wednesday, they said administrators have been communicating with parents, alumni and past families, informing them of the recent events via email and letters. They also said they have held on-campus student meetings to discuss the charges.
Outside Faribault City Hall, Mayor John Jasinski describes the school as a major economic engine for Faribault. About three-quarters of the school's 439 students live on campus, and they come from 39 different states and 31 countries.
That makes the school a vibrant part of the Faribault community, Jasinski said.
"You can drive by the hotels and you can see the cars are all full in front of the hotel and you can usually tell something is going — it's probably Shattuck-related," Jasinski said.
The school has also been trying to put itself on the map as training ground for elite soccer players. The school is also known for its performing arts and the late actor Marlon Brando even attended the school for a time in the 1940s
"Things do happen. It's unfortunate but overall they're a very solid institution. They do very good things. They have great programs. They're a great learning atmosphere. Very involved in the community. So, they're solid," Jasinski said. "Again I think this is an isolated [incident] but you keep going on. They've been here for over 100 years and they'll continue to be here in Faribault."
Inside a local coffee shop, Faribault resident Jane Hillesheim said while she is saddened to hear about the scandal, she is unsurprised. But she doesn't think it'll permanently tarnish the reputation of Shattuck or Faribault.
"In the grand scheme, there's still way more positive things that happen than the negative, so I think it's a blip," Hillesheim said. "And I think if they do it right and address the situation correctly, then the trust will be back again.
Local law enforcement and county authorities along with the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are continuing their investigation of Seibel. Seibel has been in jail in Los Angeles County since August on unrelated charges of possession of child pornography.
- Morning Edition, 10/11/2012, 7:16 a.m.