Teacher Resigns over Accusation; Ex-Student Claims Abuse at St. John's
By Dave Wedge
December 31, 2003
A beloved St. John's Prep teacher and student mentor has resigned from the prestigious school amid allegations he molested a student 10 years ago, the Herald has learned.
"He has voluntarily resigned from St. John's Prep," school headmaster Albert J. "Skip" Shannon said of Brother George Donnelly.
Donnelly, a respected social studies teacher and guidance counselor at the Danvers high school since 1984, stepped down Monday after a former student alleged the Xaverian brother molested him in the school in 1993. The alleged victim made the allegation Dec. 17 in a phone call to school officials, who notified the Archdiocese of Boston and the Essex District Attorney's Office.
Donnelly has not been charged with a crime, said William Melkonian, spokesman for Essex DA Jonathan Blodgett. Archdiocese officials did not return a call.
A fixture on the Danvers campus for two decades, Donnelly announced his resignation in a candid letter to students, parents and faculty that was obtained by the Herald.
"It is with great sadness that I inform my Prep family of my decision to withdraw from St. John's effective immediately," Donnelly wrote. "While I proceed through the process of clearing my name of the allegation I have decided to take my Community's offer to go on sabbatical to rest and re-evaluate my future."
He added, "I ask for your prayers knowing that with them and God's grace I will get through these stressful times."
Donnelly, whose most recent position was director of student activities, was recalled yesterday by current and former students as an outgoing, fun-loving teacher and faculty member who was always at every sporting event. Known on campus as "Brother George," he was a familiar, smiling face in the hallways and the bleachers, often leading cheers and banging a cowbell, one former student said.
"He brought smiles to people's faces, and those smiles are truly what kept him going," said the former student, who requested anonymity. "Brother George was not just a staff member, he was a symbol of the school. To hear that someone would even accuse him of these actions is heartbreaking."
Shannon said the school moved swiftly upon learning of the allegation and is following the procedures outlined by the Catholic Church for handling alleged sexual abuse.
"We have care and concern for the victim, the brother and the community," Shannon said, adding the school would cooperate with any criminal probe. "We do not tolerate any form of misconduct with young people, and we place the protection of children and families above institutional preservation."
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