A former private school teacher has been accused of forcing male students to exercise nude as an alternate means of punishment.
At least six former students of the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey say that 79-year-old Bruce Presley, then a teacher and housemaster, would regularly order students to perform exercises in the nude, sometimes during or immediately after showers, and for up to 30 minutes at a time. The alleged incidents involving Presley came to light last week thanks to an investigative piece published by the South Florida Gay News, and are said to have occurred between the years 1960 and 1984.
Presley, now an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and documentarian in South Florida, allegedly offered these nude punishments as an alternative to detentions, suspensions, and other common forms of punishment. The students — who were 17 and 18 at the time the alleged harassment took place — say that while Presley pretended not to watch them exercise in the nude, they felt certain that he was.
"He tried to conceal it a little bit," John Watkin, now 59, told the SFGN. "He pretended to look at a newspaper. I guess he held it there so he wouldn't come across as a blatant pervert."
Watkin says that he suspects that almost half of the 37 male students who were living in the on-campus house under Presley's rule — back when Lawrenceville was an all-boys school — had to endure his nude punishments.
While none of the former students who have come forward have alleged that any physical abuse took place, they say that Presley's harassment had a devastating effect on their lives.
"It ruined my life," said another former student, Brent McCowan, now 58. "It caused me a lifetime of pain."
The Lawrenceville School is currently investigating the situation, "with the assistance of outside legal counsel," SFGN reports.
"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."
Presley, now a prominent philanthropist in the South Florida LGBT community, has yet to comment on the allegations against him.