xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Inside Baltimore’s prestigious Gilman School: Decades of alleged sexual abuse, little effort at justice, report finds

Two former employees at the all-boys Gilman School have been accused of sexually abusing students — one for decades — according to an investigative report commissioned by the school and obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

The report, released in January, also records instances, dating from the 1950s through 2008, when Gilman officials were apprised of allegations but did not investigate further, did not alert community members or did not pursue prosecution.

Advertisement

The investigation was conducted by security consultants T&M USA.

Investigators concluded that Dr. Martin Meloy, a science teacher and baseball coach from 1983 through 2009, abused at least 13 students during his tenure. Investigators also concluded that Thomas Offutt, an employee of the school from 1954 to 1956 and a member of a prominent business family, abused at least seven students.

Advertisement
Advertisement

School officials declined to comment on the findings, but according to the report Gilman launched the investigation in 2019 after a former student told school leaders Meloy inappropriately touched students when he attended in the 1990s.

Neither Offutt nor Meloy was prosecuted, according to the report and Maryland court records. Meloy died in 2015.

Offutt did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Baltimore Sun but did speak with investigators for their report.

One of Offutt’s alleged victims told The Sun that seeing the report helped bring to light a trauma he’s lived with for years.

Advertisement

“They just swept it under the rug,” the man said.

The Baltimore Sun typically does not identify victims who allege sexual assault.

Decades of abuse

The bulk of the report focuses on Meloy, who the school’s headmaster previously said sexually abused multiple students in the 1990s, while also acknowledging the school itself could have done more to investigate the allegations against him.

In sometimes graphic detail, the report outlines how Meloy would regularly manipulate students by buying them gifts of sports equipment and clothing as well as offering them rides to sporting goods outlet stores. In the cases of former players on Meloy’s baseball team, the report said he’d comment that students looked “tight or stiff” during practice and would offer them “massages” at his home.

“These former students described a markedly similar pattern of behavior by Meloy who told them to undress ... and then lie face down on the bed in his guestroom with a towel underneath them,” the report reads.

Investigators wrote that the inappropriate massages would regularly escalate, sometimes tying students’ hands and feet as well as blindfolding them before fondling them or engaging in other sexual behavior.

Other students who told investigators that Meloy had abused them at his home said that they also were asked to strip naked and wear a loincloth-like outfit while he inappropriately touched them and took photos, the report states. Investigators wrote that Meloy would explain to the students that the photos were for a “Native American photography project” he was working on for a magazine.

Meloy also abused students in his campus office, according to the report.

Meloy’s abuse spanned from the 1980s into the 2000s, investigators wrote.

Attempts to contact various family members of Meloy on his behalf were unsuccessful.

While two students approached the school in November 2008 to report they’d been sexually abused by Meloy in the 1990s, according to the report, the school did not publicly address the claims against Meloy at the time, instead making an announcement as if he’d voluntarily retired.

“The greater Gilman community was never informed of the allegations against Meloy,” according to the report.

The report says that the former science teacher was not criminally charged and instead was forced to resign the following year and enter a non-prosecution agreement with the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office, prohibiting him from having unsupervised contact with minors for five years.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger told The Sun that his office investigated some of the victims’ claims, but felt there was not enough evidence to prosecute given the gap between when the individual said the incidents occurred and when he reported them to school officials.

“We believed the victims and we still do,” said Shellenberger, who handled the case during his first term in office. “But at the time we felt like [the non-prosecution agreement] was a sufficient amount of protection for the community.”

Sexual assaults and threats

In Offutt’s case, the report says that the former teacher abused at least seven students from 1954 to 1956 before being fired by the school when one student reported to school officials that Offutt had abused him.

The report said that during those two years, Offutt would abuse these students “generally 11 or 12 years old at the time” on-campus and in the woods outside the Offutts’ family home. He would engage in inappropriate touching of students’ genitalia, the report says, as well as rubbing his genitalia against students.

“The evidence also demonstrates that Offutt told some of those whom he abused not to tell anyone about the behavior and told one former student in particular that if he did so, “ ‘something’ might happen to him or his family,” the report reads.

Offutt admitted to some of the conduct in an email, the report states. However, he denied ever touching any naked students’ genitalia or engaging in oral sex, despite allegations to the contrary outlined in the report.

“In his interview with T&M, he acknowledged that one or two times a week during his two years of employment at Gilman, he fondled the penises and touched the buttocks of ‘three or four’ students over their clothing in his sixth-grade classroom as they stood at his desk,” the report reads.

However, investigators say they “did not find Offutt’s denials persuasive.”

While school officials were made aware of the allegations against Offutt at the time of his employment, the report says he was fired and does not mention prosecution.

In addition, when a former student told the school in 2002 about Offutt’s abuse, the report claims that the “School met with the State’s Attorney’s Office and provided them with the former student’s correspondence but did not take any additional steps as requested by the former student.”

The report does not indicate that the greater Gilman community was made aware of either of these allegations at the time.

Shellenberger said his office’s Child Abuse and Sex Offense Unit did not have any knowledge of the allegations against Offutt.

Advertisement

Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy, who served as the city’s top prosecutor from 1995 to 2011, could not be reached for comment. Requests for comment from Althea Handy, a current Baltimore Circuit Court judge who served as an assistant state’s attorney in the office’s former sex offense unit from 1999 to 2002, were not returned by the Maryland Judiciary.

Advertisement

Other allegations

The report also detailed allegations of inappropriate behavior by former Baltimore Judge Robert Hammerman, the founder of the Lancers Boys Club, which Gilman had allowed to operate on its campus. The allegations were reported in The Sun in 2000.

After a Gilman senior gave a speech in 2000 in front of hundreds of boys saying that Hammerman had leered at him as he showered, the school banned the Lancers from campus. About a half-dozen others came forward at the time, the report said, to say that Hammerman had leered at them and asked questions about their physical development.

He was never accused of inappropriate touching, and Hammerman denied the charges in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 2000. Gilman temporarily banned the Lancers from campus. In 2004, Hammerman, facing dementia and progressive blindness, took his own life.

School’s responsibility

In a letter to the school community, Gilman Headmaster Henry Smyth wrote that the school has learned “lessons about the need for immediate actions when allegations arise and transparency in communication if and when inappropriate behavior is confirmed.”

He’d previously written last year that the school “could have done more; specifically, we could have taken steps to determine if any other students had been harmed by Meloy’s grave violation of our students’ trust.”

Smyth expanded on this in his latest letter to the Gilman community dated Jan. 21, saying that the school pledges “to adhere to best practices on all fronts going forward, augmenting current policies and introducing new procedures, as needed.”

In an action plan titled “Guarding Against Sexual Abuse,” officials outline a number of practices and policies to better address and prevent sexual abuse, including “developing a system for regular and continuous monitoring of campus spaces, as well as off-campus travel and school activity, to guard against potential abuse.”

“When we launched this investigation, our purpose was to understand to the fullest extent possible the breadth and nature of sexual abuse experienced by Gilman students,” Smyth wrote. “Though these findings are difficult to learn and painful to digest, we cannot strengthen our future without thoroughly understanding our past.”

In a letter sent specifically to the survivors who spoke with investigators also obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Smyth wrote that the school has set aside funds “to help pay for counseling services to support survivors who participated in the investigation.”

“We are committed to doing everything we can to make sure that no boy experiences what you and others did,” Smyth wrote.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement