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Pornography Charges Against Teacher Rock Exeter

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Officials at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., will try to make the opening of school this week as normal as possible following the indictment of a veteran teacher on charges that he possessed child pornography and shipped it across state lines.

"Our attitude is to avoid a disruption of the educational process,'' David W. Johnson, Exeter's director of communications, said last week. Administrators planned to discuss the situation with the faculty on Sept. 8 and with students, parents, and others at the Sept. 11 opening assembly.

Mr. Johnson said keeping attention focused on education and the needs of students would be "tough'' because members of the news media are expected to blanket the campus.

No student, new or returning, has withdrawn because of the situation, school officials said.

July 16 Arrest

The July 16 arrest of Larry Lane Bateman, 51, who was the chairman of Exeter's drama department, rocked the 1,000-student boarding and day school, which sent more than one-third of its 1992 graduates to Ivy League colleges and will charge $17,050 for tuition, room, and board this fall.

Mr. Bateman, who had taught at Exeter since 1980 and lived for 10 years in student dormitories as is required of faculty members, was fired the day after his arrest and has vacated his school-owned apartment.

After a search of the apartment, in which police seized more than 800 videocassettes of different kinds, Mr. Bateman was charged by local police with possession of child pornography, said his lawyer, Mark F. Sullivan.

Those charges were dropped after a federal grand jury issued a 39-count indictment Aug. 5. The indictment charges Mr. Bateman with shipping child pornography--Polaroid photos, picture books, and videocassettes--across state lines.

Last week the grand jury brought another count against Mr. Bateman, charging him with violating federal law by possessing pornography--picture books and videocassettes--depicting minors, including prepubescent minors, engaged in sexually explicit activity, said Arnold H. Huftalen, the assistant U.S. attorney in Concord, N.H.

The federal investigation is ongoing, Mr. Huftalen said, and could yield additional charges alleging physical exploitation by Mr. Bateman of children for the production of pornographic material.

The shipment charges are based on information supplied by a man identified in court papers as "P.C.,'' who maintains he received child pornography from Mr. Bateman between April and December 1990, said Mr. Huftalen.

The possession charge is based on the search of Mr. Bateman's Exeter apartment.

Mr. Bateman, who is free on $10,000 bond, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Each shipment charge carries a penalty of 10 years in jail and a fine of $250,000. The federal possession charge could bring Mr. Bateman five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A trial is set for Oct. 6.

Mr. Johnson said the school was not aware of anything unusual until Mr. Bateman's arrest.

Faculty members were "stunned and extremely upset'' by the arrest, Mr. Johnson said. Mr. Bateman had just two years ago won an award bestowed by the administration for "superior classroom instruction'' and "excellence in dormitory supervision.''

Mr. Sullivan said his client has received "overwhelming support'' from students, parents, and alumni.

School's Response

The school's principal, Kendra Stearns O'Donnell, will urge faculty members to discuss the recent events with students as soon as possible, in the classroom and in dormitories, Mr. Johnson said.

He said no other plans have been made for addressing the case.

Four days after Mr. Bateman's arrest, Ms. O'Donnell sent a letter to thousands of members of the school community notifying them of the charges and of her decision to dismiss the teacher.

Ms. O'Donnell declined a request for an interview.

A second letter, dated Aug. 14, was addressed to parents of new students and sought to reassure them that the school has "no confirmation'' of media reports that Exeter students were involved in Mr. Bateman's alleged illegal activities.

According to Mr. Huftalen, the assistant U.S. attorney, "There are depictions [in the explicit materials] of at least one person who is not now a Phillips Exeter student'' but who was in recent years.

However, the date of the sexually explicit depiction is currently in dispute, Mr. Huftalen said.

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