School alerts alumni of additional molestation claims against former teacher

The Gordon School said it is investigating allegations of sexual assault involving several students and a faculty member in the 1970s. (WJAR)

The NBC 10 I-Team has obtained a copy of a letter sent Monday by the Gordon School in East Providence to its alumni acknowledging that several former students have accused a former math teacher of sexual abuse.

The letter identified the former teacher as Andrew Cohen, of Coventry, who taught at Gordon between 1972 and 1977.

School officials said Cohen was contacted by the attorney serving as their investigator and that he has denied the allegations. The NBC 10 I-Team left a message at Cohen’s home, but there has been no response.

Since the school began looking into accusations last year of sex abuse, its investigator has received more credible reports of sexual molestation, backed up by statements from former students, said the direct and detailed letter to alumni.

“These accounts included allegations of numerous instances of inappropriate touching and digital rape that occurred on campus and, in two cases, allegations of rape that occurred off campus,” according to the letter.

It’s unclear where Cohen, who is now 69 years old, has taught since leaving Gordon. He was associated with the Ocean State Theatre Company, which is no longer operating.

A police report from September 2017, also obtained by the I-Team, indicates East Providence police detectives interviewed at least 10 former students during the past year, each with similar complaints of inappropriate touching and sexual abuse.

A woman identified as "Lisa" told investigators that she was an 11-year-old student at Gordon in 1975 when she alleges Cohen began assaulting her. One incident she said happened in the French room. She told police she read the French alphabet on the wall to “disassociate” herself from what Cohen was doing.

Other students told police they were abused off campus at Cohen’s apartment and in their own homes during private tutoring sessions.

The Providence Journal interviewed three women, who are now in their 50s, about their allegations of abuse. The women told the newspaper they had been personally molested or raped by Cohen. The women told the Journal that police and school officials in the mid to late '70s did little to investigate or prosecute him.

The East Providence police report indicates one student took her complaints to police in 1977. She told current detectives that she and Cohen took lie detector tests. She also remembered a detective at the time asking her if she was leading Cohen on.

Ralph Wales, Gordon’s current head of school, had harsh words for his predecessors in a statement released Monday.

“We have worked closely with the victims and have dedicated our resources to investigate these claims, which we believe are true. We are also saddened to learn how this case was handled by former school administrators decades ago. This would not stand today,” said Wales.

East Providence Detective Michael Spremulli wrote in a 2017 report that the new information was presented to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, which has declined to pursue charges due to the statute of limitations.

Wales' full statement is posted below:

The Gordon School is tremendously proud of our former students for showing their courage in coming forward with disturbing allegations against a former teacher from the 1970s. We have worked closely with the victims and have dedicated our resources to investigate these claims, which we believe are true. We immediately contacted law enforcement to pursue this matter forward. We have also kept our community informed during this painful process. We are also saddened to learn how this case was handled by former school administrators decades ago. This would not stand today. Throughout the investigation, the victims have stressed their hope that no student experience what they did. Their hope is our charge: to ensure the trust that parents and children bring to Gordon each and every day is protected and preserved now and in the future. We remain fully committed to meeting that essential and basic expectation to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all our students.
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