Latest Lawsuit Alleges Culture of Child Sexual Abuse, Cover-Ups At Indian Mountain School

By Josh Kovner, Contact Reporter
Monday, April 9, 2018

A former student, the latest to accuse Indian Mountain School educators of sexual abuse, says in a lawsuit filed Friday that he was one of the boys molested in the late 1970s by teacher Chris Simonds at "photo club" meetings run by Simonds out of a padlocked basement and in the teacher's on-campus apartment at the exclusive K-9th grade school in Salisbury.

Starting when he was 12, Ramsay Gourd and other boys were unwillingly plied by Simonds with cigarettes, alcohol, speed and microdot LSD, molested dozens of times in Simonds' apartment, and blackmailed with nude photos that Simonds took of a circle of boys that he molested, known as "Simonds' pets," the lawsuit states.

"Ramsay was a member of this group; he was one of Simonds' pets," writes lawyer Antonio Ponvert of Bridgeport, who represents Gourd.

Simonds was allowed to quietly retire in the mid-1980s.

Gourd has been damaged for life by the abuse he suffered 40 years ago, the complaint alleges.

The complaint asserts that, to this day, Gourd lives in fear that photographs of him and other boys being molested by Simonds, taken by the teacher in the late 1970s, when Gourd attended as a 12-15 year old, will surface on the Internet.

Filed in federal court on Friday, the lawsuit is at least the 9th child sexual-abuse complaint lodged against the school since the 1990s. The school has settled at least eight of them, including three last year that had been filed by Ponvert.

In 1996, The Courant exposed a string of sexual abuse allegations against Simonds. The allegations surfaced after the criminal statute of limitations had expired, and he was never charged.

State police conducted a two-year investigation in 1992 and 1993 after receiving complaints of sexual abuse. The state police report on that investigation concluded that children at the school, some as young as 12, reported being given illegal drugs and cigarettes as a way of manipulating them into having sex with their teachers.

Ponvert alleges that school officials destroyed Simonds' personnel files after the teacher left the school, and that multiple generations of officials have sought to bury the truth about what happened there. The hallmark of this concealment, Ponvert alleges in the complaint, was the systematic cover up of what school officials knew - in order to deprive alleged victims of an opportunity to sue before the statute of limitations ran out.

The Gourd complaint asserts that many school officials, including members of the board of trustees, the former headmaster and assistant headmaster, the school psychiatrist, the registered nurse, and individual faculty members, knew most of the details of how Simonds was grooming and sexually assaulting dozens of boys for several years, including Gourd.

For example, it was well known on campus that Simonds touched and hugged the boys who were in his photo club, which met after school in a locked basement on campus, according to the complaint. It was known that Simonds had the only key to the basement padlock, the lawsuit states.

One night, in search of a boy missing from his room, the headmaster and the assistant headmaster knocked on the door of Simonds' apartment. The teacher answered, in his underwear, and admitted that the boy was there - yet Simonds was never removed from teaching, the lawsuit states.

The school at one point did bar teachers from coming into the boys' dorm at night, in effort to restrict Simonds' nighttime visits - but the policy was never enforced, the complaint charges.

In fact, none of the officials ever reported any of the abuse to the Department of Children and Families or any other outside agency, even though many of them, as mandated reporters, were obligated to do so, the complaint asserts.

Indian Mountain School has yet to file its response to the lawsuit. The school has consistently denied any liability.

Ponvert asked in court for U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton to be assigned the case, since she handled the three lawsuits that settled last year and has ruled on all of the legal issues that are likely to surface in the Gourd case. The file was transferred to Arterton on Monday.

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