Ross School Sued Over Booze, Bullying On ‘Field Trip’ To South America

The Ross School in East Hampton.

A former student of the Ross School and his billionaire father are suing the school and five of its current and former staff for $10 million in compensation for the “pain, suffering and emotional distress” the young man says he suffered during a school “field trip” to South America — because he refused to drink alcohol with other students at the encouragement of the school’s teacher-chaperones.

Hayden Soloviev was a junior at the school last winter when he joined a group of other students and four members of the Ross School faculty for a three-week tour through Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Patagonia.

But midway through the trip, the young man claims, he ran afoul of the chaperones for refusing to imbibe along with other students, and then became the target of bullying and intimidation by the chaperones.

​According to the lawsuit filed by the younger Mr. Soloviev and his father, Stefan Soloviev, the chaperones “requested” that the tour guides who had led the group up a glacier one day “switch out the water being distributed to students for whiskey even though all of the students on the trip were minors,” as the text of the legal claim reads.

The teachers told the kids not to tell their parents or anyone else about the passing of the alcohol, the Solovievs claim in the lawsuit, invoking the common phraseology of a Las Vegas advertising campaign in saying, “What happens on the glacier stays on the glacier.”

When Mr. Soloviev refused to partake, two of the teachers, Christopher Maddalone and Daniel Donovan, began bullying him, the lawsuit claims, by taking away his control of the Instagram account dedicated to the students’ adventures on the trip, intimidating him verbally and attempting to ostracize him.

The Soloviev family states in the lawsuit that when they related his account of the trip to school administrators after the students had returned to the United States, the school said it conducted an investigation of the trip but never advised the family of the findings or what actions were taken.

The school, as is common with lawsuits, has declined to respond or discuss any of the details of the claims against it and its faculty and administration. A spokesman for the school offered only a letter sent to parents over the weekend by the school’s dean, Bill O’Hearn, who is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit, saying the claims made by Mr. Soloviev are untrue.

“While the school takes seriously any assertion of misconduct — whether it be by students, teachers or administrators — we are confident the Solovievs’ claims of damages, in this case, are without merit,” Mr. O’Hearn wrote. “The school intends to mount a vigorous defense to the Solovievs’ allegations.”

The younger Mr. Soloviev transferred out of the Ross School at the end of the academic year and enrolled at East Hampton High School for his senior year.

“The Ross School’s systemic failures have caused Hayden to now approach his life in a very different manner than before,” the lawsuit reads. “This action is meant to redress those failures.”

The elder Mr. Soloviev is one of the nation’s largest landowners, with more than 325,000 acres of land across the country. Grain silos in states like Kansas and New Colorado are emblazoned with the logo of one of his companies, Crossroads Agriculture, and “East Hampton NY” beneath it.

The Ross Field Academy is one of the school’s marquee programs, sending students on far-flung tours across the globe as a magnifier of their studies in photography, art and culture.