Wheeler School says teacher, student had sexual relationship in 1970s

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Wheeler School, an elite private institution in Providence, says a former teacher has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a student four decades ago.

In a letter dated Monday and addressed to “the Wheeler Community,” school officials reported that “an alumna from the 1970s has come forward and reported that she was a victim of a sexual relationship with a school employee during her senior year at the school.”

The letter identified the former employee as Michael Brown, who it said retired 16 years ago, and said he has “admitted to his involvement and taken responsibility for his actions,” as well as offered an apology. Wheeler said it would rename its Michael C. Brown Endowed Chair in Teaching, which was dedicated to Brown.

The letter was signed by Dan Miller, Wheeler’s head of school, and Jim Lousararian, president of the board of trustees. Laurie Flynn, a spokeswoman for Wheeler, provided a copy of the letter and said she would share further information if it became available.

Brown could not be reached for comment, and school officials did not respond to a request for assistance in contacting him.

Wheeler is a private independent school founded in 1899 that accepts students from nursery school through 12th grade. Annual tuition currently tops $35,000 for grades 6 through 12. It was a female-only institution until the 1970s, when it became co-ed.

Miller and Lousararian said they have “consulted” with local law enforcement but did not provide further details. They also said the school “supports the very personal decision of any member of the school community to come forward if she or he feels they were victimized by sexual misconduct while at the school.”

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said charges, if warranted, could not be brought now on an incident from the 1970s due to the statute of limitations. He said the city police have received no recent complaint and have had no interactions with Wheeler relating to sexual assault.

A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island State Police said she had no information about the matter.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram