After a former teacher and administrator who worked there for 28 years was sentenced last week for molesting five female students in the 1960s and 1970s, McLean’s elite Potomac School says it will look into allegations by the victims that the school knew about the improprieties and did nothing about them.
On Oct. 18, Christopher R. Kloman, 74, of Julia Avenue in McLean was sentenced to 43 years in prison for sexually molesting five girls beginning in 1966.
Kloman worked at the school from that year until 1994, when he retired and shortly thereafter began working as a substitute teacher at the Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, Md.
It was there that Anne Sullivan, a Potomac School graduate now in her mid-50’s, saw him when she was picking up her son one day in 2011.
“Imagine my surprise, walking down the hallway of my son’s school and seeing Mr. Kloman, the seventh-grade teacher who assaulted me in a swimming pool 40 years earlier,” Sullivan testified in court.
Sullivan testified that as a 12-year-old, Kloman invited her to swim in his pool and then pinned her arms behind her back, immobilizing her, and then sexually molested her.
After seeing him at her son’s school, in proximity to a new generation of children, Sullivan said she became fraught with concern and contacted authorities, divulging her four-decades-old secret.
After a year of investigation, Kloman was arrested and charged in November 2012.
The Fairfax County Police investigation revealed four additional victims; all girls who were between the ages of 12 and 14 when the offenses occurred from the late 1960s to the late 1970s. “There may be more pending,” police said.
Cricket Beauregard, who was in the Potomac School’s class of 1966, testified in court that Kloman molested her in the winter of that year.
“I believe there was a culture of secrecy over a number of decades at the school,” she said in a statement. “That merits a full and public investigation: an investigation of Kloman and of the school’s handling of information that came their way concerning his behavior.”
Another victim, Julia Craighill, also called for an investigation into the school’s handling of Kloman.
“Potomac has chosen to characterize this as a mere blip of the past,” she said in a statement. “I ask that Potomac undertake a full and thorough investigation into what its staff and administrators knew and when, and to be transparent in its findings, so that we all may learn from past errors and create systems so that this will never happen again.”
Jane Gould, today an Episcopal priest, said she too was sexually molested by Kloman as a girl.
“My seventh-grade class picture features a buck-toothed girl in pigtails. That little girl, facing the break-up of her parents’ marriage, was an easy victim for a sexual predator like Chris Kloman,” she testified in court. “I stand here today with my Potomac School sisters…Potomac raised us to value above all else integrity, character and community. We are the girls Potomac taught us to be. Unfortunately, Potomac School did not hold itself accountable to the same high values. Instead of terminating the employment of a pedophile, Potomac promoted Chris Kloman, giving him more power and greater access to children.”
A later victim, Laura Gill, was a member of the school’s Class of 1977. She claims Kloman also assaulted her as a 14-year-old. “This is not the first time I tell my story,” she said in a statement. “The first time was to my parents, who immediately reported it to the school. Despite their complaints, Kloman stayed on as teacher and head of the Upper School where daily, I was forced to pass him in the hallways, unable to avoid his stare, knowing that I had been wronged, and feeling unprotected by the very people entrusted with my safety.”
Kloman pleaded guilty in August to four counts of indecent liberties with a child under 14, and one count of abduction with intent to defile. On Oct. 18, Circuit Court Judge Jan L. Brodie sentenced him to 43 years imprisonment.
Kloman’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, did not return messages left for him seeking comment.
Attempts to reach Kloman and his family were also unsuccessful, but friends who have known the elder Kloman say Brodie’s ruling, which amounts to a life sentence, is harsh and vindictive.
“I have known Mr. Kloman for almost 20 years and the man who committed those actions ceased to exist a long time ago,” said Andrew P. Hinton of McLean, who attended church with Kloman.
“The man I have known for all these years is not the same person in any way or action. For many years he has been a loving husband and father. He has been a strong part of his community including at church where I met him. I think that sending a 74-year-old man to prison for the rest of his life for something like this—done many decades ago—is not a just sentence. People who have done much, much worse crimes much more proximate to the deed have been sentenced to far less time in prison.”
Jack Hannon, who also attended church with Kloman and testified on his behalf in court, said the Kloman he heard about in court bears no resemblance to the man whom he says was a senior warden in their church and spent countless hours doing good deeds, both there, and with Habitat for Humanity.
“This is a different man,” he said. “One might say that he had this serious black mark against him and was piling up credits on the other side later in his life, but I don’t think so. The man I knew was seriously dedicated to doing good deeds. And I was shocked at his sentence.”
Civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who represented all five victims, in her own statement called Kloman a vile sexual predator who used his position of trust and power to scar his victims for life.
“He used force to rape at least one of the girls when she was only 14 years old,” she said. “And when Potomac, despite the complaints of parents, kept him employed at the school, it left girls there feeling scared and believing that there was not a safe place from Mr. Kloman. Other victims never knew that Kloman had admitted to sexually inappropriate conduct and that there was a sexual predator in their midst. In other words, Potomac allowed this sexual predator to prey on young girls in its school, and it appeared to give him license to use his position of power and authority with impunity to sexually victimize the children who had been entrusted to his care.”
John Kowalik, the school’s head administrator, responded to Allred’s claims by saying the school is willing to speak to the victims.
“Please know that we take these allegations very seriously and will follow up on the issues raised,” he wrote in his own statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to speak with the victims and hear their concerns.”