Accused of misconduct, former St. Andrew’s teacher sues school

The St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

A former St. Andrew’s School teacher whose close relationships with three teenage students prompted a legal probe and rancorous debate over how the school investigated his actions is suing the school for defamation, saying he lost one job and has been unable to find another one since his actions came to light.

Former teacher Christopher Waite alleges his reputation was damaged by a report released in August by the Boca Raton private school that examined how school administrators handled Waite’s interactions with three students, including allowing a student to sleep multiple times in his on-campus apartment, embracing another student, and driving a student to the beach at night.

In a lawsuit filed late last month, Waite says that the school’s report “falsely accused (him) of a crime” and accused him of “sexual misconduct.”

“As a result of the statements that have been made against me,” Waite said in a statement, “I have been deprived the opportunity to continue pursuing a career that I have devoted my life to: teaching.”

A spokesman for the school declined to comment on the lawsuit.

It’s at least the third lawsuit sparked by controversy about how the school handled Waite’s interactions with boarding students, the fallout of which led to the dismissal of the school’s headmaster. In the months that followed, the school’s vice chairman sued its chairwoman for defamation, and another teacher filed a whistle-blower lawsuit related to the case.

The report, commissioned by the school and written by New Hampshire attorney David Wolowitz, did not accuse Waite of any criminal wrongdoing or identify him by name. The report clarified that “there is no evidence at this point that there was sexual abuse of students.”

But the Boca Raton school told parents that Waite “violated student-faculty boundaries.”

Erin Sleeper, a paralegal with the law firm representing Waite, said that although the report did not expressly accuse Waite of sexual misconduct, it “implies” that he committed criminal acts.

“They suggest that he did,” she said.

Waite was forced out of his position in October 2015, but the school decided not to contact law enforcement officials because students said no improper activity had occurred between them and Waite.

Later, the school’s board of trustees hired attorneys to review the case. The report, a copy of which was filed with the lawsuit, faulted school administrators for failing to investigate sufficiently after learning of the situation.

The attorney’s report was released to school parents, and its findings were published by both The Palm Beach Post and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Waite’s identity was later revealed in police reports.

After details of Waite’s actions at the school were revealed, the lawsuit says that he was “forced to resign from his then-employer of over nine months.”

Waite had been working at the time for an insurance agency but lost the job, said his attorney, Lindsey Wagner, adding that the “damage to his reputation has been tremendous.”.

Waite accused the school of intentionally maligning him, saying that school officials “intended to portray (him) in a negative light.”

“I deny any allegations that I acted inappropriately in any way and appreciate the support that has been shown to me by my former students and their families as well as certain past and current St. Andrew’s staff,” he said in a statement.

The lawsuit alleges that Waite “has suffered perpetual harm, including public humiliation, contempt, distrust, disgrace and ridicule, as well as the loss of his ability to gain employment and earn a living.”

 

 

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