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January 5, 2013

Elite prep school investigating ex-headmaster's conduct

Former presidential candidate Steve Forbes played key role in case

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — An elite college-preparatory school in Massachusetts disclosed it has been investigating a former longtime headmaster for possible inappropriate conduct with students and male escorts.

The inquiry by the Brooks School in the Boston suburb of North Andover was initiated six months ago after school officials said they received anonymous, disturbing emails about sexual activities involving Lawrence W. Becker, headmaster at the school from 1986 to 2008.

The school confirmed that so far it has determined Becker had been engaged in an improper relationship with at least one student years ago, and also that on two occasions he had hired male escorts, once while traveling on school business.

It was also revealed that Steve Forbes, the New York publishing executive who twice ran for the Republican presidential nomination, was made aware of the student relationship as the then president of the Brooks School Board of Trustees but chose not to report it to authorities.

Forbes, an alumnus who served as board president from 1987 to 1997, issued a statement saying he referred the matter to the school’s legal counsel, that sexual abuse was not involved, and that “appropriate action was taken” at the time.

Nevertheless, school officials in a letter to alumni and parents urged anyone with knowledge of any inappropriate conduct by Becker to contact Head of School John R. Packard at headofschool@brooksschool.org or call (978) 725-6239.

The letter described Becker’s conduct with the student as “objectionable, manipulative, and an abuse of his position,” and raising “grave concerns” that led to the investigation of his conduct.

Becker, 71, now a resident of Bonita Springs, Fla., was hired as Brooks’ headmaster over more than 80 candidates. He was then the assistant headmaster of another prestigious college-prep school, the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Becker said public disclosure of the Brooks investigation  “causes me and my wife great pain, sadness and embarrassment.”

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