2013 Letter to Swim Parents by Germantown Academy Head of School Admitted ‘Many Incidents of Hazing’ in ‘Past Few Years’

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Complete headline links to our Shoulberg series are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10736.

by Irvin Muchnick

Concussion Inc. has obtained, and is here reproducing, a 2013 email to all swim parents, from Germantown Academy head of school James Connor, in which Germantown admits that the assaults and torture of “John Doe” by “A.L.” were just one of multiple cases of coach Dick Shoulberg’s program’s known athlete-on-athlete abuse.

Though the John Doe allegations remain to be proved in Pennsylvania civil court, details outside the court record, which are pouring in to us from multiple local sources, establish that the cover-up surrounding A.L. was, if possible, even worse than the lawsuit complaint portrays. In the next post we’ll present detailed notes on all this.

Further, the Germantown acknowledgment of “many incidents” in “the past few years” omits that at least one of them went back a full decade and led to changes in the school conduct code — which proceeded not to be enforced. The statement that “the incidents just came to our attention in the past few weeks” was and is a lie.

All told, the Shoulberg-Germantown story is worse than the Horace Mann School story, and several magnitudes worse than the Penn State story. Behind the image of excellence and rectitude, Shoulberg was a seriously off-the-charts sadist whose swimming fiefdom — through his manipulation of youth athletes and their families, and his skill at courting rich donors — became the tail that wagged the dog at Germantown. Based on the evidence we are rolling out, it is not inconceivable that responsible administrators will be criminally prosecuted and the academy’s very existence will be imperiled.

Here’s the full text of the Connor email:

From: James Connor

Sent: Monday, October 21, 2013 1:03 PM

Subject: Today’s Announcement


October 21, 2013

Dear Parents of Swimmers,

At morning meeting today, Rich Schellhas read the statement that follows to the Upper School students and faculty. We also wanted to share this information with you so that will be informed as well as to how the administration has responded, and continues to respond, to these misguided behaviors. We wish that we could have made this statement sooner, but circumstances beyond our control prevented us from communicating before today.

Please be reassured that we are committed as administrators, teachers and coaches to keeping students safe and to upholding, individually and collectively, the tenets of Germantown Academy’s Mission to be “compassionate in spirit” and “honorable in deed.” Please note that interviews are underway to add a male coach to the swimming staff to assist in this effort.

All best wishes,

Jim Connor


Statement to the Upper School

At Germantown Academy, we pride ourselves on our integrity and the spirit of mutual respect we expect from our students, faculty, staff and administration.

It is with great regret that I inform you of events that have undermined this sense of pride. For the past few years, there have been many incidents of hazing in the boys’ swimming program. These incidents just came to our attention in the past few weeks. I apologize for not being able to communicate with you about them sooner.

It is undisputed that there were violations of our school’s policies. This was confirmed by multiple witnesses and involved multiple targets. One student has now left GA.

I urge the entire community to come together at this difficult time, not to partake in idle chatter, rather, instead, to lift each other up, and to help us move forward as one, one community of learners dedicated to bringing out the best in each other by giving the best of ourselves whether in the classroom, on the stage, on the fields or in the pool.

Without ensuring the personal safety of all to the best of our ability, we are unable to fulfill our school’s lofty mission. I can assure you that we are doing everything we can to review and improve student supervision practices in the athletic arena. We will be adding an extra coach to the boys’ team for the remainder of the year to ensure better supervision now.

I hope you will join me in standing up to any type or degree of physical or verbal abuse at our school by letting an adult know what is going on immediately. Whether it is happening to you or you witness it happening to someone else, I implore you to join me in standing up to any behavior that contradicts our mission to inspire compassion, collaboration, and honor.

I met with the swimmers on October 11 to share my thoughts with them as well, and to ask them to be as strong as possible as we support them in moving forward. Again, I am sorry I was not able to communicate with you sooner. I’m so grateful to all of the swimmers and parents who have supported the team and the school through this difficult time. If you have any questions, please contact me.



Rich Schellhas

Assistant Head of School & Upper School Head

Germantown Academy

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick