Kamehameha Schools has agreed to pay $80 million to 32 plaintiffs who were sexually abused by a psychiatrist decades ago while they were students at the private school or were treated by him, according to terms of a tentative agreement reached between the two sides.
The late Dr. Robert Browne, chief of psychiatry at what was then St. Francis Hospital and a therapist under contract with Kamehameha, was at the center of a legal battle being waged by advocates for victims.
Leaders at the school were under attack for failing to intercede on behalf of the children.
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TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Dr. Robert Browne becomes psychiatric consultant to Kamehameha Schools, counseling troubled students, many referred by the school. His soundproof office is at St. Francis Medical Center, where he is chief of psychiatry. The school typically transports the students to and from their appointments.
After a recent counseling session, Ronald James, a seventh-grader, asks Kamehameha Principal Diana Lord why he has to take off all his clothes and let the doctor touch him all over, James, now 64, said in a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser interview. Browne’s actions, James said he told Lord, included digital penetration on the pretense of doing a rectal exam. Lord told the then-12-year-old that Browne was a doctor and could do whatever he wanted, James said.
“Anger has been the centerpiece of my issues.” — Ronald James
“All these years of suffering, and Kam Schools, to me, they didn’t care. They’re just sorry they got caught.” — Michael Almeida
“I’ve been holding my shame in all this time. But now I realize it wasn’t my fault. I was a victim.” — Alika Bajo
“This has deeply impacted all of us, and as we work toward resolution in everyone’s best interest, we trust that we will all find a way to heal together as one ohana. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to the plaintiffs and their families.” — Kamehameha Schools
A Kamehameha student tells various school officials that Browne has been sexually abusing him during the counseling sessions, according to a negligence lawsuit filed in 2016 by 34 plaintiffs against the school, St. Francis and Browne’s estate. Most of the plaintiffs are former Kamehameha students.
Browne’s tenure as psychiatric consultant for Kamehameha ends.
Michael Almeida, suffering from depression, tells his psychiatrist that he was abused by Browne around 1979 when he was a 14- or 15-year-old freshman, according to his medical records. Almeida is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Browne fatally shoots himself after being confronted by another former student about alleged abuse, according to depositions taken in the lawsuit. A day or two before the doctor’s death, the student tells a Kamehameha official that Browne abused him — he didn’t specify how — and that the student was planning to confront Brown.
A Kamehameha father tells school President Michael Chun that several of his sons were sexually abused by the psychiatrist years earlier. Chun ordered an internal review but in his 2016 deposition said he didn’t recall receiving a written report. He said he believed Browne’s behavior was inappropriate and had concerns that there might be more victims. Yet the school did not do an investigation to identify possible victims. It also did not report the initial allegations to law enforcement. “At this juncture, I relied on the legal department to provide guidance,” Chun recalled in his deposition testimony.
Lord, retired by then, writes Chun a letter describing the allegations against Browne, a friend, as “spiteful and scurrilous.” She died in 2007.
A former student tells a Kamehameha counselor and the secondary school principal that he was abused by Browne as a seventh-grader in 1980 and 1981, the student recently told the Star-Advertiser. “They didn’t look surprised,” the former student said. When the student asked the two officials whether there were other victims, they told him they would look into the matter but never got back to him, he said.
Another student comes forward to tell Kamehameha that he was abused by Browne years earlier.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs into law a bill extending the statute of limitations for lawsuits by individuals seeking damages linked to childhood abuse.
A group of former Kamehameha students files a lawsuit accusing the school and other defendants of negligence in connection with the alleged abuse. The defendants dispute the allegations. The lawsuit eventually is dismissed.
Another lawsuit is filed with the 34 plaintiffs. The suit is pending. The plaintiffs allege that the abuse lasted from the late 1950s into the early 1980s.
Kamehameha files a cross claim against St. Francis, saying it believes Browne routinely abused students but the school wasn’t aware of the alleged misconduct contemporaneously and that Browne had concealed it. If the plaintiffs are entitled to damages, the school argued, St. Francis is liable. St. Francis disputes that.
Kamehameha Schools agrees to pay $80 million to 32 plaintiffs who were sexually abused by a psychiatrist decades ago while they were students at the private school or were treated by him, according to terms of a tentative agreement reached between the two sides.
June 1, 2018
Scheduled trial date in the 2016 lawsuit.