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Only on 10: Former headmaster denies sex abuse cover-up

NBC 10's Adam Bagni interviews former St. George's School headmaster Tony Zane at his New Bedford home, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.

A former headmaster at St. George's School in Middletown denies claims that he covered up, or ignored, student allegations of sexual abuse.

The elite prep school is currently engulfed in a major sexual abuse scandal.

Tony Zane, who ran the school from 1972-1984, spoke exclusively to NBC 10 News on the steps of his New Bedford home Wednesday.

"I never called her crazy," he said.

The 85-year-old is fighting off allegations from the 1970s and '80s. Alleged victims claim he protected sexual abusers and was anything but supportive.

"I walked into his office. I told him what happened. He looked at me and said, 'You're just a distraught young lady. You're mentally unstable,'" said alleged victim Katie Wales Lovkay.

Lovkay is just one of the 40 alleged victims whose attorneys claim were sexually assaulted at St. George's.

At a press conference Tuesday, lawyers claimed they know of 11 different perpetrators.

Lovkay's alleged attacker was former athletic trainer Al Gibbs.

"He completely ignored what I told him, and I think that's what upset me more than anything else, is the fact that he didn't believe me, and it still happened to other girls after me," said Lovkay.

But when NBC 10 confronted Zane on Wednesday, he told a completely different story. In fact, the exact opposite.

"When I heard about what Al Gibbs has been doing, I went to see four girls and she was one of them. I went to her and I accepted her story. And then I fired Al Gibbs. I never called her crazy," he said.

Zane is just one of four headmasters who victims claim either covered up, or failed to report, allegations of sexual abuse.

He went on to become the director of New Bedford's Whaling Museum, but his internal letters from the 1970s didn't disappear with time.

Perhaps the best evidence against Zane is a 1974 letter he wrote to alleged abuser, the Rev. Howard White.

The letter was released by the victim's attorneys Tuesday.

Soon after White left the school, Zane wrote on school letterhead: "I feel strongly that you should not be in a boarding school and should be seeking psychiatric help."

But Zane never contacted authorities and White went onto a long career in education.

In addition, a girls' dorm is currently named after the former headmaster.

"I want his name off that building and I want him held accountable. I want him to - he destroyed me," said Lovkay.

In the school's own report, lawyers for St. George's wrote, "... the question as to whether the dormitory named in honor of Tony ... Zane should be renamed is of special importance. This ... decision ... will be addressed as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, alleged victims say the culture of sexual assault was so pervasive - it was joked about in the 1979 yearbook.

Beneath a picture of Gibbs and a young woman the caption reads: "Mr. Gibbs, get your hand off myelbow."

Rhode Island State Police say their investigation into the scandal is ongoing.

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