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      Century old Syracuse mortuary school closing in wake of allegations

      Maurice Wightman

      The Simmons Institute of Funeral Service is closing after 113 years of operation in Syracuse. The institute just settled a claim with New York's Attorney General over multiple claims of sexual harrassment.

      The Simmons website states: "Simmons Institute of Funeral Service has proudly served the Funeral Service Community since 1900. The Institute is now in the process of teaching out and will close. We can no longer accept applications for admission. Thank you to all who have supported us through the years."

      On Friday the school added to its statement about its closing by posting more on its website: "Pertaining to the terms of the Institute's settlement with the NY AG, Simmons cannot confirm or deny the allegations of the NY AG's complaint. There is no connection between the settlement and the closing of Simmons Institute, which is due to the long-planned retirement and health issues of its principal."

      The mortuary school and its president agreed to pay $30,000 in restitution to students and employees to settle a lawsuit filed by the state Attorney General's office.

      The Simmons Institute of Funeral Services agreed to reform some of its policies after several women accused the president of the school of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

      School president and CEO Maurice Wightman was accused of harassing female students by making sexual comments and subjecting students to unwanted touching in 2011. Wightman was the designated staff member at the school to receive harassment and discrimination complaints.

      Now the school will close. Simmons Institute responded to our phone call by referring to the statement posted on its website. The school will close once all of its current students complete their coursework. That may require teaching one final course during the spring semester that begins in January.