New England Conservatory Bans Sex Offender Who Recorded Students

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The New England Conservatory has banned a videographer who was hired to record rehearsals and performances of preparatory school students over the past decade, despite his record as a registered Level 2 sex offender.

Spokeswoman Karen Schwartzman says the oldest independent music school in the country also disciplined a faculty member who knew about the man’s history and retained him as a vendor.

Schwartzman says the school has no information that the videographer, 60-year-old Peter Benjamin, acted inappropriately on campus.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports

In a statement, Schwartzman said, “For a school that is serving young people, it would be irresponsible to engage the services of a vendor knowing that person had a criminal past that involved sex crimes against minors.”

A caller alerted school officials about the man’s past in December. A private law firm conducted a probe to determine who knew what and when.

“He’s in a place with tons of kids and parents expect everyone to be kid friendly and for it to be kid safe,” said student Raymond Dineen.

The school has sent letters to 6,500 parents of current and past preparatory school students, naming the videographer to enable them to talk with their children.

“If your child is involved in a school program of any kind you hope there are background checks being done on anyone having to do with kids,” said Cynthia Baker, a parent of a student.

“He has that video,” said student Ben Parker. “I don’t know what he’s allowed to do with it, I’d be afraid of that.”

WBZ reached Peter Benjamin at his home Thursday night, where he defended his work.

“I’ve never done anything wrong,” he says. “I think that will be very evident.”

Also on Thursday, New England Conservatory President Tony Woodcock announced that Benjamin Zander, the director of its Youth Philharmonic Orchestra is leaving effective immediately.

Officials declined to discuss what triggered the exit.

Zander, who is also a Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conductor, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment left at his home and with his assistants.

Zander told The Boston Globe he was fired Thursday for hiring Benjamin.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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