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Former staffer at Chester County school abused student hundreds of times, police say

Daniel Rowley is the second former Church Farm School staff member to face such charges in two years.

Daniel Rowley, 70, is accused of sexually assaulting a student at Church Farm School.
Daniel Rowley, 70, is accused of sexually assaulting a student at Church Farm School.Read moreTNS

A former staffer at a private boarding school in Chester County was arrested at his home in Florida and accused of forcing a student at the school into hundreds of sexual encounters.

Daniel Rowley, 70, was charged late Monday with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, statutory sexual assault, endangering the welfare of children, and related offenses.

He remained in custody Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla., awaiting extradition. There was no indication that he had hired an attorney.

Rowley worked as a dorm supervisor at the Church Farm School in West Whiteland Township between 1991 and 2010, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. During that time, he also coached baseball and helped manage the team’s equipment.

In a statement, the Church Farm head of school, the Rev. Edmund K. Sherill II, said he admired the courage of the former student for reporting the alleged abuse.

“I appreciate this former student contacting authorities and deeply regret that another student may have suffered sexual abuse while attending the school years ago,” Sherrill said. “We are cooperating with the authorities on this case.”

District Attorney Deborah Ryan said the former student’s actions should set an example for others to come forward and report abuse, no matter how long it may take them to do so.

“My office will root out any adult, wherever they live, who abuses or has abused children,” Ryan said. “It took many years for this victim to have the courage to reveal what had happened to him, and then more years to have the fortitude to speak with law enforcement.”

Investigators said that during Rowley’s time at Church Farm, a college-preparatory school run by Episcopal clergy, he groomed then allegedly raped the student during the teen’s freshman, junior, and senior years at the school in the late 2000s.

That student, now an adult, made a report to Chester County’s Childline service in 2018, saying he had been abused by a staff member at the school, the affidavit said. During an interview earlier this year, he told detectives that Rowley had massaged him, inappropriately touched, and forcibly sexually assaulted him as many as 300 times.

Many of the encounters, he told police, took place in Rowley’s room at the school, or in the boiler room of one of the campus buildings.

Rowley used MySpace to send messages to the teen after some of the earliest encounters, telling him to keep them secret, the affidavit said.

Detectives tracked Rowley down to Florida, and during an interview in May, he admitted to the sexual assaults when the teen was a student at Church Farm, according to the affidavit.

Rowley also told detectives he was fired from the school after an internal investigation into content on his laptop. The circumstances of that probe were unclear Tuesday, but a spokesperson for West Whiteland police said it did not result in criminal charges. Rowley’s laptop has been turned over to detectives investigating the abuse allegations and could result in additional charges, the spokesperson added.

The charges against Rowley mark the second time in two years that a former teacher at Church Farm has faced charges of sexual abuse.

Marc Spera, 58, was sentenced in March to 15 to 30 years in prison on similar charges. Spera, also a dorm supervisor, admitted to sexually assaulting a teen at the school in his private room, and bought the boy an Xbox 360 console to keep in touch with him during the summer months away from the school.

The victim in that case has a pending federal lawsuit against Spera and the administration of Church Farm, asserting that the school failed to hold Spera accountable and allowed him to spend an inappropriate amount of private time with him.