Deaf Students Want Abuse Stories Heard / Lawsuit Reveals Dark Tales about Life at Randolph School

By Dennis Tatz
Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA)
May 12, 2004

BOSTON - Violet Guertin remembers she was about 9 when a nun at the Boston School for the Deaf in Randolph forced her head into a toilet bowl and held it there until she passed out.

Guertin, 41, who lives in Rockland, is one of nine former students who say they were sexually assaulted or beaten by nuns at the non-profit school that closed a decade ago.

A 100-page lawsuit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court details alleged abuse at the school between 1944 and 1977.

Guertin and other former students told reporters through a sign language interpreter yesterday that the time had come for them to fight back and tell their story.

"We want you all to know we have been victims," said Guertin, whose brother, who lives in Quincy, is also a plaintiff.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian represents 31 people who say they were abused at the school, which was run by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. More lawsuits are expected.

"As children of the Boston School for the Deaf, they were sexually molested, physically abused and otherwise mentally tormented," Garabedian said. "Some were raped."

A statement from the Sisters of St. Joseph emphasized that the school positively influenced "thousands of lives," but also promised an immediate, fair and sensitive investigation.

"With regard to the accusations of abuse against our sisters and others at The Boston School for the Deaf, we will proceed with sensitivity and dignity for the alleged abused and with a sincere reverence for the truth and respect for civil and canon law," the statement said.

The suit names 13 nuns who allegedly abused students or were in positions to stop the abuse but didn't.

The sexual abuse charges include nuns having sex with students and fondling others. Other students said they were locked in dark closets for hours as punishment.

Two priests are also named in the suit, including the Rev. Charles J. Murphy of Weymouth who was the director of counseling at the school for 20 years. He is accused of engaging in "sexually offensive conduct" with a female student.

His lawyer, George McMahon, said the Rev. Murphy is innocent.

"He absolutely and totally denies any allegations of any wrongdoing of any kind, including any alleged sex or physical abuse," McMahon said.

McMahon said the Rev. Murphy has been a priest for 44 years. "There has never been a single allegation of any kind, anywhere, at any time against him," he said.

The nine former students who have filed suit, six men and three woman, are now 41 to 67 years old. They were between 7 and 16 when the abuses allegedly occurred.

Several said they realized what happened to them only after the church sexual abuse scandal broke open in Boston two years ago.

Garabedian said the deaf students had trouble communicating the abuse to their parents, who held the nuns in high esteem and refused to believe anything bad about them.

The other priest named in the suit is Thomas V. Daily, retired bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y. He was the Rev. Murphy's supervisor during his time at the school.

Among the nuns named in the suit are Sister Miriam Theresa Ringer and Sister Mary Kieran McCormack, also known as Sister Rita McCormack, both of Rockland; Sister Alice Kirby, also known as Sister Mary Laurand, of Milton; and Sister Helen Callahan, also known as Sister Leo Francis, of Braintree.

Gary Gedney, a physical education teacher and coach at the school, allegedly exposed himself to a student.

There are also several other unnamed defendants.

William Shaevel, an attorney for the school, couldn't be reached for comment.

The school was established in Jamaica Plain in 1899 and moved to Randolph in 1904. The 56-acre campus on North Main Street was sold six years ago for $4.5 million to the Boston Higashi School, which cares for and teaches autistic children. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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