by Pete Mazzaccaro
News spread across Chestnut Hill early last week following a lengthy article by Inquirer writer Craig McCoy containing two interviews with men who claimed to have been victims of former Chestnut Hill Academy (now Springside Chestnut Hill Academy) teacher Frank “Sandy” Thomson.
Thomson, 69, pled guilty to charges of sexual predation of two boys in Cape May that occurred 15 years apart. McCoy wrote that the two men he spoke to came forward following Thompson’s arrest two years ago. Though neither gave their names, both men related stories that were similar to the more recent incidents related by Thomson’s victims.
Both men said Thomson fondled them, the first victim during wrestling practice at the school, and the second victim on two separate occasions while sleeping under the same roof as Thomson. Both men’s identities were kept confidential by the Inquirer.*
The men who spoke to McCoy described incidents that took place in the 1970s. Thomson was a teacher at CHA from 1972 to 1998. The school said it was not aware of any incidents that took place between Thomson and its students in that period.
Thomson is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb 3. Prosecutors have asked for a year-long prison sentence followed by 15 years of parole. He is currently free on $200,000 bail. Thomson will likely be registered as a sex offender.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy sent out a letter to current student families and alumni to inform them of Thomson’s arrest and likely sentencing. The school said it was unaware of any incidents involving Thomson during his time at the school.
“As a school and a community, ensuring the safety and well-being of all of our students is our highest priority,” read the letter, signed by Head of School Steve Duggan. All of our school’s policies and procedures are in strict compliance with Pennsylvania reporting requirements. In addition, all employees, as well as volunteers, coaches and independent contractors, undergo the required background checks as mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Lastly, as a reflection of our ongoing and unwavering commitment to the safety of our students and employees, in recent years SCH has proactively addressed appropriate student/adult boundary issues by providing all employees professional development training on this subject.”
Anyone with information or questions was urged to contact SCH’s Dean of Faculty, Kathleen Tkac, at 215-261-6964 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The school sent out a similar letter in May 2015 when it informed its community about charges against former teacher Michael Clifford. Clifford died in Provincetown, Mass., in 2011. The publication of the letter was in large part due to the efforts of CHA alum Clark Hindelang who was a victim of Clifford. Hindelang brought the matter to the attention of the Local and agreed to be interviewed for a 2015 story in this paper.
“I want to make it perfectly clear that by coming forward, my hope is that any person who suffered at the hands of pedophiles or other victims of sexual abuse can get help in order for them to lead a better life,” Hindelang said at the time. “I have come clean with my past and hold no grudges. I’ve really never had it so good.”
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or email@example.com
*This paragraph originally suggested that both victims were assaulted during wrestling practice. It has been clarified.