The man accused of raping an underclassman at John Kerry’s alma mater allegedly told detectives it was all a misunderstanding tied to a annual tradition known as the “Senior Salute,” wherein seniors publicly competed to sleep with the most underclassmen throughout the school year.
Owen Labrie, a 19-year-old former prefect at St. Paul’s school in New Hampshire, was charged with repeatedly raping a 15-year-old girl on the roof of a campus building last summer. He’s denied having intercourse with her but allegedly told detectives it was “tradition” for seniors to keep a rolling list of sexual conquests published for all students to see—initially on a laundry room wall, and later on the internet.
Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, talked openly about the tradition when he was interviewed by Concord police. On a campus where upperclassmen studiously avoid their younger peers in most settings, Labrie told a detective some students “take great pride” in having sex with younger students before they leave school.
Labrie also told the detective of a contest where boys compete to “score” with the most girls, keeping a running tally written in indelible marker on a wall behind washing machines. The school kept painting over the scoreboard so it eventually was moved online. He acknowledged to the detective he was “trying to be number one,” the detective wrote.
Labrie—an aspiring divinity student whose acceptance to Harvard was rescinded after the rape charges—allegedly told detectives he was planning on having sex with the alleged victim, and even put on a condom, but stopped “in a moment of divine inspiration.” When asked why she might lie about the encounter, he allegedly claimed it was “a ‘great source of pride for younger students’ to have sex with seniors.”
Labrie, whose rape trial began Monday, is hardly the first St. Paul’s graduate to make headlines. According to the AP, the elite prep school has also produced senators, congressmen, ambassadors, Pulitzer Prize winners, Fortune 500 CEOs and several adult Kennedys—and that’s in addition to the current secretary of state, a former FBI director, and a Nobel laureate.
Nor is it the first bad press the school’s had in recent years—there have been allegations of hazing and the mysterious 2004 death of a star swimmer who drowned in the school’s $25 million athletic center even as two lifeguards were on duty. And in 2003, two grown billionaires were observed fighting on a Park Avenue street corner over alleged financial mismanagement that eventually led to a faculty vote of no-confidence against a popular rector.
The school’s current rector, Michael Hirschfeld, declined to comment on the Senior Salute, telling the AP—apparently without irony—that “St. Paul’s School has policies in place to ensure that our students are safe, secure, and treated equitably.”