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  Assistant Principal Named in Settlement

By Michael Barber
Bradenton Herald
January 28, 2005

MANATEE — An assistant principal at Haile Middle School was one of many defendants named in sexual molestation lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Boston that led to a multimillion-dollar settlement in 2003, court documents show.

Joseph Gilpin, who has been placed on paid administrative leave by the Manatee County School District, is also part of a separate, ongoing complaint filed with the Archdiocese of Portland in Maine.

As the allegations were revealed this week, local friends and coworkers have staunchly supported Gilpin, a distinguished employee of the Manatee County school system for more than 30 years.

Father Don Nicholson, a local Episcopal priest who has known Gilpin for seven or eight years, forcefully denounced the allegations.

"It's garbage," he said. "I'm angry, not at Joe, but that an unnamed accuser could make these accusations after all these years and get Joe's name splashed all over the newspaper. I think it's a defilement."

Gilpin, 60, has not responded to repeated attempts by The Herald to discuss the allegations or the district's decision to place him on leave.

Manatee County School Superintendent Roger Dearing placed Gilpin on leave Wednesday when the allegations were brought to the school district's attention. The allegations came to light when the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sent Dearing a letter, detailing allegations dating back to the mid-1960s.

School board chairman Walter Miller, who could not comment on the allegations because Gilpin may have to come before the school board, spoke highly of Gilpin.

"I've known him for years as a friend and as a school board employee," he said. "He's been a very good employee and done a lot of good things for the district."

The first complaint

In a 2001 civil suit filed against Gilpin and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, one accuser alleges Gilpin sexually molested him as a boy in the 1960s at Camp Miramar in Duxbury, Mass.

Described as a seminary and educational facility, Camp Miramar also housed a summer camp for boys. According to the lawsuit obtained by The Herald, the boy was at the camp when he met Gilpin.

The suit states Gilpin "used his position of authority at the camp and in the church to befriend the plaintiff and gain the trust of the plaintiff's family" between 1965 and 1968.

Gilpin would remove the boy's clothes, fondle him and perform lewd acts on the boy, who was between 9 and 12, the suit stated. The incidents took place at the camp, at the boy's home and at other locations, the accuser claimed.

In written response to the suit, Gilpin denied the accusations levied against him, as did the Boston Archdiocese.

"The Defendant denies the accusations set forth," the written response states.

The accuser, who is now a psychologist in California, contends he had repressed memories of the abuse for years until they resurfaced in 2000, causing "severe emotional and mental distress," according to the lawsuit.

Records show Gilpin attended several Catholic seminary schools but was never ordained a priest.

Neither the accuser nor Gilpin filed a deposition in the case, which was closed in February 2004, according to court filings. Of the $85 million the Catholic Church distributed to victims, Gilpin's alleged victim reportedly received a $250,000 settlement after an arbitration hearing. The maximum amount a plaintiff could be awarded was $300,000.

The accuser could not be reached for comment Thursday. His Boston-based attorney, Martin Kantrovitz, said he learned about a second allegation of sexual abuse against Gilpin on Thursday when he received a call from Paul Kendrick, co-founder of Voice of the Faithful in Maine.

"We haven't seen this case in a year and a half," Kantrovitz said.

The accuser learned in 2003 that Gilpin had been working as a teacher in Florida and tried contacting a Florida agency to alert them of the accusations against Gilpin, Kantrovitz said. Nothing was done, he added.

A second complaint

In addition to citing the 2001 suit, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests also cites a second accuser, who contends to have been molested by Gilpin while he worked as a teacher at a private school in Maine.

The second accuser filed a complaint against Gilpin with the Archdiocese of Portland in September 2003, Kendrick told The Herald by phone Thursday night.

"It's really not a formal lawsuit," said Kendrick, who lives in Maine. "He sought legal help, and they've gone to the Portland Diocese in an effort to try and reach an agreement for damages."

Sue Bernard, director of communications for the diocese, confirmed that a complaint was filed in 2003, but she declined to discuss details, saying it was in the hands of lawyers.

Kendrick said that the diocese offered the accuser a four-digit figure to settle, but that he hasn't accepted.

"He felt the offer was so low they must not have any comprehension of the damage sexual abuse caused him as a child," Kendrick said.

The accuser was a student of Gilpin's while he taught fifth-graders at St. Mary's School in Biddeford, Maine, between October 1967 and June 1968, Kendrick said.

According to Gilpin's employment application with the Manatee County school district filed in December 1970, Gilpin listed that he was a fifth-grade teacher at St. Mary's from 1967 to 1968.

Gilpin was born in Weymouth, Mass., and graduated from Weymouth High School in 1962. In the years between his high school graduation and his arrival in Manatee County, Gilpin moved frequently, according to his application.

He attended Cardinal O'Connell Seminary in Boston from 1962 to 1964, then moved to St. John's Seminary College in Boston from 1964 to 1967, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in philosophy with a minor in history.

Kendrick said Gilpin lived in a beach-side cottage, about 5 miles from St. Mary's. The accuser told him that Gilpin would invite him and other boys, between the ages of 10 and 14, to his home, where they would play cards and drink alcohol.

After working at St. Mary's, Gilpin moved to Canada, where he attended the University of St. Paul in Ottawa and studied theology in 1968-69.

The next year, Gilpin spent a semester at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, according to his application with the Manatee school district. Gilpin then spent one semester at St. Meinard School of Theology in 1970. Gilpin also worked as a summer school teacher and a permanent substitute in 1969 for the Wareham School System in Wareham, Mass.

Bernard said Gilpin was dismissed from a Boston seminary before working at St. Mary's. She added he also was dismissed from the Ottawa seminary but did not know the reasons why in either case.

"There are a lot of people who start the seminary and come to the conclusion this location is not for them," she said. "Seminaries are really careful whether or not the person is a proper fit to be a priest."

On Jan. 13, 1971, the Manatee County School system hired Gilpin to teach Latin at Manatee High.

Gilpin was an active teacher from the beginning and rose to leadership roles in the Florida Foreign Language Association, the Florida Junior Classical League, student council and other extra-curricular activities.

As part of his duties, Gilpin routinely served as a chaperone for overnight trips outside of the school district.

Kendrick criticized church officials who, despite the complaints, did not realize Gilpin had spent more than 30 years working as an educator in Florida.

"Of all the jobs this guy could have, here he is — a teacher around adolescents," Kendrick said. "It's my guess this thing is going to explode not only here, but there."

Manatee officials react

Pat Lucas, the assistant superintendent for district support services, said she has known Gilpin since 1974 when they taught at Manatee High. Lucas said there have been no changes in the district's investigation of the allegations since they first surfaced Wednesday.

"I'm not aware of any parents calling about the matter," Lucas said. "We did send a letter home with the students at Haile. Any time something happens at a school, we send a letter of explanation home with the students."

The district has not taken any specific steps to provide counseling to students related to Gilpin's leave status, although the district has counselors available for stressful situations.

Father Nicholson said the Gilpin he knows would not be involved in any kind of abuse.

"Joe is not the kind of person who takes advantage of people — it's just not part of who he is," he said. "He's probably one of the best loved school teachers and administrators that I know. We have kids here at MCC who know him and admire him for the guidance he gave them in school."

 
 

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