After nearly 35 years of denial, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia acknowledges that sexual abuse allegations by a former student are credible.
Lara St. John was 15 years old when she told school leaders that famed violin teacher Jascha Brodsky sexually abused her several times over six months, including inappropriate touching and rape.
School refused to take charges seriously
St. John went to school leaders six times between 1986 and 2019, asking Curtis to acknowledge her complaints. Robert Fitzpatrick was dean of the school when St. John was a student. She says Fitzpatrick brushed off her accusations, and the school refused to recognize the abuse for decades.
However, last summer, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an investigative story corroborating St. John’s account. She told the newspaper that Fitzpatrick did indeed – privately – take her charges seriously but told her no one would believe her because of her age.
School reverses course after years of silence
After the Inquirer’s story ran, Curtis officials sent emails to alumni asking them to stay quiet about St. John’s allegations. That changed when the school’s board of trustees released the full report done by a law firm hired by the elite school. The firm’s investigation found St. John’s version to be credible.
The board issued a statement saying it regrets the physical and emotional toll suffered by St. John. It says the school had multiple opportunities to take her accusations seriously and help her recover. However, trustees say the school fell short, instead reinforcing the perception that it didn’t care.
Sexual abuse brings devastating consequences
After informing school officials of the abuse, St. John was assigned a different teacher. Brodsky was admonished by school officials but kept teaching until his death in 1997. St. John struggled at the school and tried to commit suicide in her third year before leaving at age 17.
While her story has made headlines, investigations show 20 other students at the school made separate accusations of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse from the 1960s through 2020. Investigators have not corroborated any of those complaints.