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  Suit Accuses Teacher at Bishop Guertin of Sex Abuse

By Kathryn Marchocki
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
April 25, 2002

A former Bishop Guertin High School student says a teacher sexually abused him 20 to 40 times while he was a freshman at the Catholic school in Nashua, a lawsuit filed yesterday said.

Jeffrey L. Linton, 42, alleges Brother Roger Argencourt abused him over a two- to three-month period in 1974 during individual tutoring sessions.

Linton, who now lives in Afton, Va., said the assaults mostly occurred in Argencourt's private room in the brothers' residence when he was 13 and 14 years old.

The assaults ranged from fondling to oral sex to anal rape, according to the civil suit filed yesterday in Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua.

"There were 20 to 40 incidents of this abuse taking place in this residence where all the brothers lived and stayed all the time. To say they didn't know either means they were incredibly negligent or they weren't telling the truth," said Manchester attorney Peter E. Hutchins, who represents Linton. On at least one occasion, another brother unexpectedly walked into Argencourt's room while he allegedly was sexually assaulting Linton, saw what was happening and walked out, the suit said.

Argencourt allegedly locked the door and continued abusing Linton.

"Apparently, that brother did nothing about what he had witnessed," the suit said.

Another time, a student observed Argencourt abusing Linton in the school's bathroom, the suit continued.

Linton came forward with the allegations last fall after Argencourt, who taught history at the school, contacted him through another person, triggering his memory of the alleged abuse, Hutchins said.

Linton went to Nashua police, but was told the criminal statute of limitations had expired, Hutchins said.

Argencourt, who is a member of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, admitted to Nashua police in January that he abused Linton at least 20 to 30 times, the suit said.

He also admitted to abusing one other student during the same time and said that, at some point, he told his spiritual adviser in Hudson what he had done, the suit said.

Brother Leo Labbe, the school's president, did not return a call for comment yesterday.

But in late March, Labbe issued a statement saying the school immediately removed Argencourt in January after Nashua police informed administrators of Linton's allegations and that "they had obtained information confirming the allegations."

Following the alleged abuse, Linton transferred from Bishop Guertin to Nashua High School.

Argencourt admitted to police that he attended a 100-day "renewal session" in New Mexico in 1978 where he disclosed his alleged sexual predations to his "spiritual counselor," the suit said. He later was assigned to Africa and Woonsocket, R.I., returning to teach at Bishop Guertin in 1986, the suit said.

While the school removed Argencourt after administrators learned of his admissions to police in January, they did not publicly disclose what happened until late March after they were notified of the pending civil claim, Hutchins said.

"If my client had not gone to police, (Argencourt) would still be there," Hutchins said.

The lawsuit names Argencourt, Bishop Guertin High School Inc. and the Order of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart as defendants.

Hutchins said he has tried to settle the suit for the past month, but the school has not cooperated.

Instead, "they have just been spinning a public relations spin machine," he claimed.

Brother Robert Breault, the provincial superior of the Order of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, did not return a call for comment. He is based at the provincial house in Pascoag, R.I.

Argencourt could not be reached for comment.

Bishop Guertin High School was an all-boys school until 1992. It enrolls roughly 800 students from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, said the school is an independent Catholic high school that is not run by the diocese.

However, Bishop John B. McCormack expects the school to adhere to all diocesan policies, he said.

"He is concerned that every school remain a safe place for students and faculty," McGee said, adding the bishop requires staff at independent Catholic schools to participate in the diocese's mandatory training for responding to sexual misconduct.

"If this allegation is true, we're very sorry that any student in New Hampshire ever had a problem of abuse in a school," McGee added. Authorities have said they are investigating sexual abuse allegations against two other Bishop Guertin brothers.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified one of the teachers as Brother Guy Beaulieu, who began teaching at the school in the 1970s and was moved to the brothers' retirement home in Rhode Island in 1990, The AP reported.

The other brother has not been identified and it is not known if he still teaches at the school, the AP reported.

 
 

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