Tampa School Gets Another Sexual Abuse Suit
It Is the Sixth Suit since 2002 to Be Filed against Mary Help of Christians School
By Saundra Amrhein
St. Petersburg Times [Tampa FL]
August 11, 2005
TAMPA - Joining a string of other allegations in three years against Tampa's Mary Help of Christians School, a former student sued the school Wednesday, saying he was sexually abused by two Salesian brothers while he was a seventh-grader in 1982.
The suit is the sixth since 2002 accusing a priest or teacher at the school of sexually molesting a boy in his care.
The school at 6400 E Chelsea St., which stopped housing residential students in 1996 and became coed in 2000, is run by the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order. The order is devoted to helping children, especially the poor and disadvantaged, according to its Web site.
The suit says that the plaintiff, born in 1969, was enrolled at the Catholic boarding school as a seventh-grader in 1982 because he had failed seventh grade at his other school. His mother, the suit says, hoped the Salesians who operated Mary Help of Christians School could help instill the discipline and structure the victim needed at that point in his life.
One Salesian brother molested him at least 20 times, usually at night, in the brother's bedroom, in the school's music room or outside on school grounds, the suit says.
Several times, the victim awoke to find the Salesian brother in his dormitory bed, fondling him, the suit says.
The suit accuses the school and the Salesian Society Inc. of knowing about the brother's sexual abuse of boys but doing nothing to stop it.
At least one time, the boy was abused by another Salesian brother during the same time period, the suit says.
The suit is seeking $5-million in damages.
"What (was) happening at the school was really disgusting," said Jeffrey H. Herman, the attorney who filed the suit Wednesday and four similar ones against the school since 2002. A sixth suit was filed this summer on behalf of three former students alleging sexual abuse.
"It was a haven for pedophiles," Herman said. "It was a place you hoped you could have trusted the adults supervising these children. But the opposite occurred."
The school's director, Father Bill Ferruzzi, would not comment on the suit.