New allegations of sexual abuse against a Servite High School priest surface in court

The Bharat Express [Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India]

December 9, 2022

By The Bharat Express News

Three former Servite High School students allege they were repeatedly sexually assaulted by a priest, according to three new lawsuits filed in court, the latest in a series of allegations against a pastor who also acted as a teacher and swim coach at the prestigious school.

A total of eight former students have filed lawsuits against the private school in Anaheim and Father Kevin Fitzpatrick, who, according to the attorney for several of the plaintiffs, worked to gain the trust of young boys at the school and “commanded” a room that was being used to isolate and sexually abuse them.

At one point, Fitzpatrick also brought what looked like an old barber chair that the victims said was used during some of the alleged abuse, according to Mike Reck, one of the lawyers.

Allegations against Fitzpatrick first surfaced in a lawsuit in June, which was followed in September by another four lawsuits from four other alleged victims. Fitzpatrick died in 1997.

The latest allegations were contained in three complaints recently filed in Orange County Superior Court.

“It’s really shocking, but as his time with Servite has progressed, the pattern of allegations seems to be getting bolder,” Reck told The Times.

The allegations of abuse have rocked the prestigious school known for its athletics. Fitzpatrick, who worked at the school from 1970 to 1992, was a prominent figure during his tenure, teaching math and religious courses and coaching the school’s swimming and polo teams. According to court records, he became deputy director in 1977.

In 2017, the school completed a $5.7 million project dubbed the “Father Kevin Fitzpatrick Aquatic Center,” but removed the name this year after allegations against the priest surfaced.

“Servite acted on Father Fitzpatrick’s reputation until the first lawsuit was filed,” Reck said. “They put his name on it and his picture.”

Stephen Walswick, principal and interim president of Servite High School, told The Times in a statement that the school was unable to comment on pending litigation, but said student safety was the school’s top priority.

“Servite High School will continue to review and enforce its current protocols and processes to keep its students safe,” he said. “As Catholics, we must do everything we can to lessen the suffering and pain of others. We pray for lasting strength and healing for all survivors of abuse.”

The alleged abuse took place in the 1970s and 1980s, but a California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 – AB 219 – extended the statute of limitations on child abuse allegations, giving a three-year period for allegations that extend beyond the term pending in court. The three-year window closes at the end of 2022.

Reck said a pattern emerges in many of the allegations against Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick reportedly commented on the bodies of students in the pool, especially members of the water teams wearing Speedo swimsuits, Reck said. The priest is also accused of using his disciplinary authority to lure and abuse some victims.

In one case, Reck said, a victim was “blackmailed” after being found with drugs.

Fitzpatrick “told him he would report it if he didn’t give in to his sexual advances,” Reck said.

In another allegation, a child was caught cheating on a Servite entrance exam, and Fitzpatrick threatened that the student would be denied entry and that his parents would be notified of the cheating if he did not comply with Fitzpatrick’s demands , said Rick.

“It’s awful to read and hear about children going through this, but I think the open question is, how has he been allowed to operate in this facility for decades?” said Rick.

The lawsuits cite the Order of the Brother Servants of Mary, which oversees the school.

They also name the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange as defendants. According to the lawsuits, the two organizations are named because they were responsible for the funding, staffing and management of parishes, schools and fraternal organizations, such as the Order of the Servants of Mary.

Orange County was under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles until 1976 when the Diocese of Orange was formed.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Orange declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“While we cannot comment on pending litigation (especially since, to our knowledge, the diocese has not been served), it is important to clarify that Servite High School does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Orange,” spokesman Jarryd said. . Gonzales said in a statement.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Fitzpatrick was not a priest under the archdiocese and said the archdiocese is committed to the safety of the children in its parishes.

“We take seriously any allegation of misconduct involving a minor, whether by clergy or lay people,” the statement said. “Allegations of misconduct against anyone serving the archdiocese will be reported to law enforcement, fully investigated, and under zero tolerance, anyone who has harmed a minor will be permanently removed from any capacity in the archdiocese.”

For many of the victims, Reck said, the most pressing questions are not just about the abuse that took place, but how it was allowed to continue.

“He’s a priest and other priests have worked with him and lived with him,” Reck said. “This was not an isolated incident. We are talking about countless attacks on campus.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.