Woman posts letter exposing teacher she says groomed her for sex 12 years ago and plunges school into fresh crisis

Brittany Rohl was just 16 years old when she says her Long Island high school teacher took her under his wing

Sheila Flynn
Saturday 13 November 2021 13:56
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<p>Brittany Rohl</p>

Brittany Rohl

Stolen kisses by the grade school. Nonstop texting. Photographs together at prom. It sounds like a high school romance taken straight from the pages of a teen novel – set against the backdrop of of a Long Island beach town.

Except one half of the couple was a pretty young track star – and the other half was a coach and teacher twice her age.

Brittany Rohl has publicly released a harrowing account of alleged grooming and abuse that she says began when she was just 16 years old at Babylon High School and would eventually turn sexual. Now 28, she details her claims that the married teacher began employing classic manipulation techniques early on to forge a bond and exert control, singling her out, telling her she was “overlooked” by others and he was the only one who truly appreciated her.

“If you haven’t had a lot of romantic interest from boys, you’re just feeling unwanted and kind of picked over, and then ... someone with authority shows interest in you, it’s a really unique psychological situation,” Ms Rohl tells The Independent.

At such a young age – and under the sway of a trusted adult – she was unaware of what was happening at the time, but it has continued to affect her, says Ms Rohl, who is studying for a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Florida.

“Once someone who mentors you betrays you in that way, it’s really hard to put trust in anyone.”

Brittany Rohl, who graduated from Babylon High School on Long Island, says she was just 16 when a teacher and coach began grooming her for a relationship which turned sexual days after her 18th birthday

They began a close relationship and texted nonstop, she says, the intimacy sometimes “raising eyebrows” amongst their circles. The teacher, also a popular coach, was known for helping students get into good colleges; he convinced her to abandon plans to attend the University of Delaware and instead switch to Fordham, just an hour’s drive away, she said.

In the days after graduation, when she was still 17, the teacher “sat me down on the bleachers at the football field and told me that he wanted to take my virginity, and that only he could because no one could love me like he did,” Ms Rohl writes in a letter she sent this week to the Babylon Board of Education.

In a meticulously laid-out timeline, she explains how he waited until she turned 18 – and the next week drove to her street in the middle of the night and asked her to come out to his car, where they had sex and “it hurt”. That began what she has described as a fraught and manipulative sexual relationship that would go on for years and essentially destroy her college experience.

In her letter to the Babylon Board of Education, Ms Rohl claims rumours about teachers were widely know but ignored by officials during her high school years

She has already been invited to speak at the Board’s Monday meeting, she tells The Independent.

Ms Rohl says she had been considering coming forward for years but was spurred to action this week after another teacher was recently relieved of his duties at Babylon High School.

“I thought, it’s kind of now or never; there’s attention on it,” Ms Rohl tells The Independent.

For years, she “really didn’t think anyone would bat an eyelid” at her story, she says. “I thought that, even if I did tell it, there’s a lot of forces in Babylon that suppress anything that might threaten the image of the town.”

The teacher, who resigned this month under unspecified circumstances, for example, had been the subject of rumours even when she started at the school at the age of 12, according to Ms Rohl. She was warned to stay away by other students, and girls rumoured to have been involved with the teacher “were called sluts and homewreckers”, Ms Rohl tells The Independent.

“Since the time that I was in high school, there’s been a lot of evolution in the way that we think about abuse and grooming and inappropriate conduct and shifting away from victim-blaming, which was so prevalent when I was in school,” she says.

In the recent case, Superintendent Linda Rozzi sent a letter home to parents announcing last month the teacher had been “reassigned to home” after “disturbing allegations” prompted an internal investigation.

Ms Rohl laid out a detailed timeline of how the grooming progressed and eventually turned physical

Suffolk Police later said no criminal activity had been found, but the teacher’s employment was terminated, with his resignation taking effect on 8 November. Members of the school and community – particularly on social media – began an irate discussion, saying many had known about the situation and similar ones for years.

Mr Rohl herself she can think of at least six names offhand that should have been – or still should be – investigated for inappropriate student contact.

“The grooming, mental manipulation and sexual acts that Brittany endured during and after high school ... are ones that leave me not only heartbroken but betrayed,” Mackenzie Vickers, a friend and former teammate of Mr Rohr’s, posted on Facebook this week, adding her own recollections of the man she considered “not only a coach, but a friend & mentor.”

“I remember the isolated practices, conversations about staff, students & his marriage – laying a foundation of TRUST and a YOU VS THEM dialogue & mentality. Being picked up to hang out under the gist of caring etc ...all of this in hindsight was terribly in appropriate.”

In a statement, the Babylon Board of Education said: “This person is a former employee.  As we receive information, we will provide to outside special counsel who will be looking into the matter and updating the Board of Education and Superintendent.”

Attempts Friday by The Independent to reach the former teacher were unsuccessful.

Brittany Rohl, right, and a friend heading to prom at Babylon High School; she says her relationship with a teacher turned physical just days after graduation

Ms Rohl tells The Independent that, following her letter to the Board of Education – which she also posted on social media – she’s received messages of support online from other victims of similar situations.

“I want this to get as much awareness as possible,” she says, adding that friends and family who found out years later could recognise the signs in hindsight.

“Our understanding of this has just changed so much,” she tells The Independent. “And we grew up, and we’re approaching the age that he started doing all this. So I think a lot of people looked back and they’re like, “Oh my gosh - of course. I can see it now.”

She wants not only Babylon to be more vigilant and change its culture but for more widespread recognition of warning signs.

“I think it’s everywhere,” she tells The Independent. “I think whenever, unfortunately, children and adults are in the same place, it’s something that we have to keep a really keen eye out for.”

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