Ten teachers from an upstate New York school engaged in improper relationships with students over several decades, an exhaustive investigation found.
The last case of misconduct at the Nichols School in Buffalo took place more than 12 years ago, according to the 91-page report released Friday by the school. The investigation was sparked by Elizabeth Russ Mohr, who says she had a sexual relationship with a physics teacher starting when she was 17 and he was 48.
"The most shameful time of your life is painful to look at," Mohr, now 41, exclusively told the Buffalo News. "It affected the way I looked at myself. It affected the way I looked at authority figures. There was lasting damage. There were things I had to work on. It took me 10 years of therapy to get past it."
The investigation into the inappropriate teacher-student relationships was conducted by the Washington, D.C., law firm Crowell & Moring, the school said in a press release.
"We express sincere admiration and respect for the two alumnae who first contacted our school and for all of those who shared their painful experiences with Crowell," the school said. "On behalf of our school, we apologize to all victims of misconduct at Nichols, be it sexual or emotional."
Investigators conducted 110 interviews with 76 people, according to the school. The evidence against four of the 10 teachers "were clear and convincing," and they are identified by name in the report. The names of the other six teachers were not disclosed.
Arthur Budington, the teacher who had a relationship with Mohr, told the Buffalo News that "what I did was wrong for all the obvious reasons ... but I have never been a predator."
The report states that Budington had an inappropriate relationship with a second student, who was also 17. Officials had suspicions about him, and were planning to place him on probation at the time of his retirement, according to the report.
"I was a divorced teacher, very shy with women, who fell in love with a beautiful young student," the 72-year-old Budington told the newspaper. "Liza was the most brilliant, amazing person I have ever known, and I will always love her. I consider her a friend to this day."
"It was inappropriate, but using that word to describe it falls short for me," Mohr told the Buffalo News. "We’re talking about an immature teenage girl having a crush and an affair with her 48-year-old teacher, an educator who is supposed to set a good example for his students at a school that says it places character on a very high level. Ask yourself, if you had a daughter, would you want her in a class run by a teacher like that?"
Their relationship lasted for four years, according to the newspaper. It was "intense, emotionally charged, manipulative, and all-consuming," according to the investigative report.
Mohr, who is married and has three kids, decided to come forward last year after keeping the relationship secret. She wrote to the school, and Nichols hired the law firm to look into other possible cases of misconduct.
"This isn't just about one wayward 17-year-old having an affair with her teacher," Mohr told the Buffalo News.
"It’s not just about me. It is about power, and institutions, and the behavior of teachers and the behavior of administrators. What makes me the most angry about this whole thing is that I believe administrators were aware of what was happening, and they did nothing. They didn’t want the problem or the scandal to become public. Nichols has to do better. You cannot live in today’s world and choose not to talk about these things."