Lawsuit against Hays High School Dismissed in Texas

Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 5, 2001

A lawsuit filed against Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays after a priest there molested a student has been dismissed in Texas.

The lawsuit sought damages from the school for negligence, deceptive trade practices and breach of contract. It stemmed from the student being molested by Ron S. Gilardi, a Capuchin priest who taught at the school when the student attended TMP-Marian between August 1993 and October 1994.

Gilardi, 53, pleaded guilty in May to three counts of indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced last month to 32 months in a treatment facility, to be followed by five years probation.

U.S. District Judge John McBryde dismissed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth last week, saying that his court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

The lawsuit claimed the school broke its promise to provide "an ideal Christian environment" with "a family atmosphere" and "teachers who were willing to go the extra mile." The family claimed that the school made verbal and written requests beginning May 1993 to convince the student to enroll at the school.

But McBryde said in his ruling that Thomas More Prep made a presentation at the boy's boarding school in Arkansas in 1993 because the boarding school was closing. The Kansas high school sent form letters to the parents of seven students, including the Texas family. After several contacts with TMP-Marian, the family enrolled their son in the school.

"Plaintiffs do not claim that the statements were false when made, but only that they turned out to be false when (the student) was abused. Even that conclusion though does not follow. The fact that Father Gilardi molested (the boy) does not mean that any of the statements regarding TMP were false," McBryde wrote.

Gilardi is in treatment at the Vianney Center, a psychological treatment facility located about 25 miles from St. Louis.

He has been suspended by the church, and will not be allowed to perform any sort of public ministry because of his status as a sex offender as long as he is in treatment. Because of his conviction for molesting a child, it is unlikely Gilardi will ever again have a public ministry, said Peter Lechner, a clinical psychologist and Catholic priest who has been supervising Gilardi since his arrest a year ago.


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