A former New Jersey teacher has been accused of sexually harassing students for years — turning one of the nation’s most prestigious boarding schools into an X-rated boot camp, complete with naked pushups, situps and jumping jacks.
Bruce Presley, 79, was working at the elite Lawrenceville School near Trenton when the alleged harassment took place between 1960-1984.
He was a teacher and housemaster at the time, and — according to his victims — used his power to punish male students however he pleased.
Instead of giving them detention and other basic forms of discipline, Presley allegedly asked his pupils to perform “exercises” in the nude, for up to 30 minutes straight on some occasions. The “punishments” would either take place in the shower or immediately after.
Presley — now an entrepreneur and prominent member of the LGBT community living in South Florida — often acted like he wasn’t watching the students during the exercises, but at least six people say they knew for a fact that he was.
They described their encounters with the teacher-turned-philanthropist in a report last week, published by South Florida Gay News.
“It was extremely orchestrated,” explained John Watkin, now 59. “He tried to conceal it a little bit. He pretended to look at a newspaper. I guess he held it there so he wouldn’t come across as a blatant pervert.”
Watkin claims he knows of at least 15 young men who were sexually harassed by Presley, including himself. They were all between the ages of 17 and 18.
“He made it so nonchalant, like this happens every day,” Watkin said.
All of the teens that Presley allegedly “punished” were living in his on-campus house at Lawrenceville, which was an all-boys school at the time.
“Mr. Presley’s conduct towards our former students is abhorrent, unacceptable, and contrary to all the values of Lawrenceville,” the school said in a statement to NJ.com. “We offer our heartfelt sympathy and apologies to those affected by his behavior.”
While none of the victims who spoke to SFGN accused Presley of sex abuse, they said his behavior left them emotionally scarred.
“It ruined my life,” said former student Brent McCowan, 58. “It caused me a lifetime of pain.”
McCowan said his worst memory of Presley came after he was caught sneaking off campus without permission. The housemaster had arraigned for his “punishment” to go down early one morning — at around 4 a.m. to be exact.
“It was very strange to me,” McCowan said. “I was in a vulnerable place and I felt very uncomfortable.”
Presley had knocked on his door wearing nothing but a white bathrobe — and allegedly ordered him to exercise in the shower, butt-naked.
“I hesitated. I thought, ‘What the f–k is this?’ But I started the situps,” McCowan recalled. “I sat down on the tile. I did two or three while he watched me. I was suddenly overcome with this overwhelming anxiety and discomfort.”
The young man quickly got up and left, telling Presley: “I’m not doing any more. You can suspend me.”
A few months later, he wound up getting caught again — prompting a second run-in with the housemaster.
“We found you off campus a second time. Meet me in my apartment at 10 p.m. after lights out,” Presley allegedly told him.
“I was scared he was going to have sex with me,” remembered McCowan. “So I thought, ‘Screw this I am out of here.’”
The teen immediately fled Lawrenceville and quit school, vowing never to come back to the Garden State. He moved to West Palm Beach before eventually settling down in Texas.
For most of Presley’s alleged victims, they said it was the recent #MeToo and Time’s Up movements that helped give them the courage to come forward and share their stories.
Thus was the case for former Lawrenceville student Guy Dorgan, who was the first to approach SFGN about the accusations.
He said he reached out to the paper because he was upset that women were accusing men of sexual harassment or abuse and not being believed.
“I understood why they waited so long. It’s embarrassing,” Dorgan said, noting how many victims wait until they see something that “provokes them.”
“Throughout the last eight years I would Google [Presley]. I once saw an article about him working with younger people, and I thought, ‘That’s not a good situation.’”
Dorgan added, “I just kept thinking about it.”
Source: News York post