A former longtime mathematics teacher at Deerfield Academy, an exclusive prep school in Western Massachusetts, is being accused of having sexual contact with a student during his tenure, and the school on Monday said it has notified authorities and launched its own investigation.
“We write with deeply troubling news,” Deerfield officials wrote in a letter to the school community, which was posted to its website.
“A former student has confided in us that he was subjected to sexual contact, in the 1980s, by Peter Hindle, who was a Deerfield faculty member between 1956 and 2000. Mr. Hindle has admitted sexual contact with a student, and we are now conducting a detailed investigation of Mr. Hindle’s years at Deerfield.”
The Globe could not confirm with authorities on Monday night whether they are investigating Hindle, 78; if he has been charged with a crime; or if he admitted to sexual contact as the school stated.
Reached at his home in Dartmouth Monday night, Hindle did not answer directly when asked if he made an admission. “To me, it’s all how something is interpreted,” he said. “I’m waiting to talk to my lawyer, so I don’t really want to say much tonight.”
Hindle said he has not been contacted by law enforcement. He would not identify his attorney. Asked if he wanted to say anything more about the allegations, Hindle said, “I’d rather not talk about it, OK? You’ll have to respect me for that.”
According to the letter, in addition to contacting authorities, the school has retained outside legal counsel to assist in its investigation. Deerfield officials urged anyone who has been affected personally or who may have useful information to contact the school.
A spokeswoman for the Northwestern district attorney’s office had no information about Hindle when reached Monday night. Deerfield police officials could not be reached for comment.
The letter did not indicate how old the student was at the time of the reported sexual contact, its nature and location, or precisely when the student came forward. It also did not specify to whom Hindle reportedly made an admission of misconduct. A school spokesman declined to comment beyond the letter.
Steve Crampton, who graduated from Deerfield in 1982, recalled Hindle in a brief phone interview on Monday night.
“He was an excellent math teacher, and that’s all I really know about him,” said Crampton, who lives in Washington state.
Dave Orrick, a 1989 Deerfield graduate, reflected on the news in a posting on Monday to the school’s official Facebook page. “I enjoyed and respected Mr. Hindle, aka ‘Czar,’ tremendously and considered him one of the great fixtures of Deerfield when I was there,” he wrote. “But if I’m honest with myself, and this pains me to say but it needs to be said, I can’t say this specific news surprises me.”
Orrick, now the outdoors editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, declined to elaborate on his posting when reached by phone. He said that he never had Hindle as a teacher but considered him “an icon of the school” and said he was well known to all of the students. Deerfield Academy has about 600 students.
Hindle also received praise in 2000 from King Abdullah II of Jordan, a Deerfield graduate who noted that year in a commencement address that the veteran teacher was retiring.
“The Czar [Hindle] has been an educator and a mentor for thousands of students who passed through the academy,” the monarch said, according to a transcript of his speech posted on his website.