The Brooks School, a college-preparatory high school in North Andover, Mass., revealed to parents and alumni this week that a former headmaster had an "objectionable, manipulative" relationship with a student years ago, and also hired an escort at least once while traveling on school business.
In a letter sent Thursday to alumni, parents and others, John R. Packard, head of school, and William N. Booth, the current board president, said that Lawrence W. Becker, who served as headmaster from 1986 to 2008, had a relationship with a student and that his conduct was "an abuse of his position."
The letter also said that Mr. Becker had been threatened by an escort he hired after his tenure at the school ended, and that he had lied about "inappropriate sexual behavior" while traveling alone on school business while still headmaster.
In the letter, Mr. Packard and Mr. Booth asked if anyone had "personal knowledge that calls into question Mr. Becker's conduct."
Karen Schwartzman, a spokeswoman for the school, said the board learned of the inappropriate relationship with the student last fall and had deliberated and consulted a psychologist before informing the school community.
The coeducational school, which describes its mission as providing "the most meaningful educational experience our students will have in their lives," did not specify the timing of the relationship. Ms. Schwartzman said that Steve Forbes, chairman and editor in chief of Forbes magazine, was president of the board at the time of the relationship. Mr. Forbes "took steps to address the issue" when he learned about it, she said, but "the full board was not made aware of it."
Mr. Becker, 71, did not return a call. But in a statement issued by his lawyer, Joseph B. Green, Mr. Becker said that the revelation this week "causes me and my wife great pain, sadness and embarrassment. In including information about my private life, among other things, and given the current climate in schools today, it encourages serious questions and speculation about my relationships with students over the years. I have worked with thousands of students and faculty members in two outstanding schools for over four decades. They know the answers to those questions. I leave the responses to them."
In a statement, Mia Carbonell, a spokeswoman for Forbes Media, said Mr. Forbes was president of the Brooks board from 1987 to 1997. "A matter that came to the attention of the school was referred to the school's legal counsel and was properly investigated and appropriate action was taken," she said. "Every step was undertaken with the advice and direction of the school's outside counsel. The matter did not involve sexual abuse."
The current head of school, Mr. Packard, first became concerned when he started receiving "disturbing" anonymous e-mails about Mr. Becker in July.
Ms. Schwartzman said Mr. Becker first denied any knowledge of the e-mails and then, "months later," acknowledged that they had been sent by a male escort he hired in 2011.
Mr. Packard then further investigated Mr. Becker's tenure and learned that in 2004, several faculty members had received phone calls from someone claiming that Mr. Becker had engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" while on a school business trip. According to the letter sent to alumni and parents, the matter was investigated at the time and Mr. Becker "provided an account of his activities which, we now know, was untrue." Ms. Schwartzman said the board recently learned that Mr. Becker had hired another male escort while on that trip.
Ms. Schwartzman said that the board president at the time, David Williams, was involved in an inquiry after other faculty members received calls about Mr. Becker's trip. In a brief phone call, Mr. Williams referred all questions to Mr. Packard. Calls to seven other current board members were not returned.
Ms. Schwartzman said that the school was not pressing any charges and that the student with whom Mr. Becker had a relationship was satisfied with how the matter had been resolved.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.