A recently fired middle school teacher at the Gilman School was arrested Friday and charged with rape and sexual abuse of a minor, court records show.
Charging documents show the allegations date from 2016 through 2019 and involve a victim who was a teenager at the time.
Gilman said in a Jan. 20 letter to the school community that the former teacher, Chris Bendann, 38, had been fired after the school learned of “several instances of inappropriate contact” with students off school property. In the letter, the head of the school, Henry P.A. Smyth, did not describe the details, but said the school had no evidence of physical contact with students. Smyth said the school had referred the matter to Child Protective Services, which is part of the Department of Social Services, and gave families a phone number for the agency.
Gilman terminated Bendann after “confidential reports” that between July and August 2021, Bendann provided alcohol to children and drove them to the St. Paul’s Schools and the nearby Meadowood Regional Park, just south of the school in Baltimore County, according to the charging documents. Bendann then “requested the children remove their clothing and run around the location naked in front of him,” the court documents said.
In a forensic interview with investigators on Jan. 30, an unnamed Gilman alumnus alleged that Bendann began sexually abusing him around the time he was in the eighth grade, according to the charging documents. The court records say Bendann was 32 at the time and the alleged victim was 15.
The alumnus told investigators that between roughly September 2016 and June 2018, Bendann would give him and his friends rides home after they had been drinking to keep their use of alcohol from their parents, and also gave them alcohol. In exchange, Bendann asked them to take off their clothing.
In one instance, the Gilman student said, Bendann “forced him to get naked” after Bendann had driven a long way to pick him up from a party, court records said.
Eventually, court documents say, Bendann began seeking nude photos from the victim and threatened to circulate the images when the the former student tried to block Bendann from contacting him. He also would become angry if the former student refused to engage in nudity and sexual acts.
At other times, Bendann would touch the student in sexually inappropriate ways, according to the charging documents.
The former student told police that the alleged sex acts happened at “several different houses” where Bendann was housesitting, as well as at Bendann’s former and current residence in Towson’s Rodgers Forge neighborhood. Sex acts also occurred in Bendann’s vehicle in Ruxton and in a McDonald’s parking lot in Timonium where Bendann would pressure the teenager “to expose himself.”
Lawyers for Bendann did not respond to a request for comment.
Attorney Steve Silverman said he represents the former student in the case and said that “based on information and belief, there are scores of other minor victims.” Baltimore County Police also said they believe there are more victims and urged them to come forward.
In a second letter sent Friday to some members of the school community, Smyth said the school learned that Bendann had been arrested and charged and that “painful details” had emerged in the court documents.
“The behavior described within the report is abusive and coercive, and it paints a picture of a grave violation of trust. It is heart-wrenching to read these details,” Smyth wrote. “Today’s revelations are profoundly upsetting and the enormity of the impact is already being felt throughout our community.”
Smyth said Gilman would do all that it can to “support the boys, their families and our larger community.”
He acknowledged that there could be other survivors of abuse.
Bendann is now facing charges of sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree rape, third- and fourth-degree sex offenses, and perverted practice, court records show. A spokeswoman for the FBI confirmed that the agency was assisting in the investigation.
According to his LinkedIn page, Bendann was a graduate of the school and had taught there for 15 years.
“We are aware that a former Gilman teacher has been arrested by authorities in Baltimore County,” said Brooke Blumberg, a spokeswoman for the school. “We are committed to supporting our students and families as well as our broader Gilman community as they process this devastating news. However, as this is an ongoing legal matter, we have no further comment.”
The charges come two years after Gilman released a report to its community about sex abuse dating from the 1950s to 2008. Written by an outside consultant commissioned by Gilman, the report detailed how Gilman failed to investigate some of the allegations, did not pursue prosecution and failed to alert community members, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The report focused on two abusers, one of whom was at the school in the 1950s and another in the 1990s.
When the report was released, Smyth wrote in a letter that there was a “need for immediate actions when allegations arise” and more transparency when the behavior is confirmed.
He said the school pledged to adhere to best practices going forward.