A former teacher at an elite Philadelphia private school was sentenced Thursday to a year in jail for sexual offenses involving two boys in Cape May County. At the hearing, a prosecutor said the man had been accused of abusing three other victims years before.
Frank “Sandy” Thomson, 69, was ordered to report to county jail in two weeks. Last year, Thomson pleaded guilty in Superior Court in Cape May Court House to charges that after his retirement from 26 years of teaching in Philadelphia, he molested a teenage boy in South Jersey in 2001 and was grooming another boy there in 2015 for sex.
Prosecutors said Thomson, of Cape May, could ask the court for early release after spending only three months behind bars — serving the rest of his time under house arrest with electronic monitoring. After that, he is to be under parole supervision for life and could have to register as a sex offender.
From 1972 to 1998, Thomson taught math at Chestnut Hill Academy, now Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. As the Inquirer reported last month, two men who are now in their 50s say Thomson molested them while they were students at the school in the 1970s.
In court Thursday, Assistant Cape May County Prosecutor Dara Paley outlined their victimization to Judge John Porto. She also disclosed that a third former CHA student had contacted her office to report that he, too, had been sexually victimized by Thomson in the 1970s.
Thomson was known for taking pupils on outings, ski trips, and overnight stays at his family home blocks from the beach in Cape May. Like another former student, the latest victim said he was assaulted on one of those overnight stays at the beach house.
The unmarried Thomson was well-liked by many of this students, and Paley said numerous people wrote letters on his behalf to the judge.
In an interview, one of Thomson's victims said the former teacher likely victimized other boys.
“It’s a travesty that more people haven’t come forward and that he’s getting off relatively lightly,” said the victim, who has accused Thomson of twice sexually abusing him in the 1970s.
While the accounts of the former CHA students did not affect the sentence, which had been reached in a plea bargain, Paley said she would cite the incidents to demand that Thomson be treated harshly under Megan’s law after his release from county jail.
Thomson did not address the court. His lawyer, Joseph Rodgers, said his client was remorseful.
Last month, his former employer sent a message to parents and alumni alerting them of Thomson's plea, and assuring them that it had zealously worked to protect students and followed the laws requiring reports to be made to authorities.
Another former teacher at CHA, Michael Clifford, who taught there from 1968 until 1972, has also been accused of molesting two academy students during his years there. He was fired after one of the students complained to school administrators. The school, however, never reported the crime to police. Clifford became an innkeeper and died in 2011 at age 67.