A nationally acclaimed chess coach who for decades taught math in Philadelphia's public schools sexually abused preteen and teenage boys in his Fairmount home in the 1980s, according to three former pupils who say they either endured or witnessed the abuse.
In independent interviews with the Inquirer and Daily News, the men described how the coach, Stephen Shutt, molested members or former members of his chess team from Frederick Douglass Elementary School in North Philadelphia.
One said he was about 11 when Shutt performed oral sex on him in the shower at Shutt's house; the other two said they saw Shutt do the same in his bed to boys who were in their early to mid-teens.
Shutt, 76, denied the accusations in interviews outside his home Thursday and Friday. "No, that did not happen," he said, speaking softly and at times shaking his head.
Shutt, who initiated scholastic chess in Philadelphia in 1971 when he was a math teacher at Douglass, has been widely praised for developing chess champions among African American pupils.
INQUIRER ARCHIVES / THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, APRIL 30, 1994Stephen Shutt is shown in an April 30, 1994, Inquirer article about the prowess of the Masterman chess team.
In 1990, Shutt transferred to the highly rated Julia R. Masterman School, in Spring Garden, where he taught in the gifted program and where he still coached chess until Friday despite retiring from the faculty in 2012. Under his tutelage, Douglass and Masterman both won multiple chess championships.
On Friday afternoon, after the school district was informed of the allegations by the Inquirer and Daily News, Masterman Principal Jessica Brown sent an email to parents informing them that Shutt would no longer be coaching chess or volunteering at the school.
Her note said Shutt had sent the Masterman administration an email about "a serious and concerning matter. It referred to allegations of inappropriate behavior with students that occurred in the past and not at Masterman." The letter said the school district will investigate the matter.
Shutt, who is ranked in the top 2 percent of all rated chess players in the U.S., is an active member of the United States Chess Federation as co-chair of two committees and a member of two others, a spokesperson said Friday. Shutt was vice president of the federation's executive board from 2001 to 2005.
"US Chess is troubled to hear of these serious allegations against one of our federation's members that were only brought to our attention today," the spokesperson, Daniel Lucas, wrote in an email Friday. "Our organization is poised to take appropriate actions per well-established internal procedures once we have an opportunity to read the article."
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