Holy Innocents Catholic School Sued over Allegation of Sexual Abuse

By Jordyn Brown and Nora G. Hertel
Saint Cloud Times
December 3, 2018

A former student at Holy Innocents Catholic School in Waite Park filed a lawsuit against the school Monday alleging sexual abuse by five members of the family that runs the school and a former priest who was assigned and lived there for years.

The woman is calling the school a "public nuisance" and is asking for it to be permanently shut down.

A copy of the lawsuit filed by Jeff Anderson and Associates, the law firm representing the woman, says she endured "ritual sexual abuse" while she was a student at Holy Innocents from 1978 to 1984, when she was 5 to 11 years old. Only the school is named as a defendant.

The complaint alleges that Robert J. Sis, Bernice Sis, and their three children Maria Sis, Heidi Sis and Christopher Sis all sexually abused the woman while she was a student. The Sis family reportedly runs the school. The complaint also alleges that Father Lawrence Brey sexually abused her while he was there in the 1970s and 1980s.

Bernice Sis and Brey have since died.

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Holy Innocents Catholic School, 1705 County Road 137 in Waite Park, teaches students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. It has approximately 20 enrolled students, according to law firm.

Theresa Carlstedt, who works at the school, told the Times that the school received the lawsuit Monday morning.

"The most I can say about this case is this situation is pulled up from over 30 years ago," she said. "And the school is reviewing it and we believe there are unfounded accusations."

She called the allegations "calumny."

"Are we concerned about it? No. Because the teachers that taught here are above standard character," Carlstedt said. "The school has never had an issue like this before and if it had we would have taken action."

Joe Towalski, the director of communications for the Diocese of St. Cloud, said Holy Innocents is not part of the Catholic Community Schools Network.

Buildings at the address for Holy Innocents Catholic School are pictured Monday, Dec. 3, in Waite Park.Buy Photo

"There's no affiliation or association whatsoever with the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud," he said.

Towalski said Brey was never recognized by or connected to the Diocese of St. Cloud.

The plaintiff, identified as Plaintiff Doe 596, reported the sexual abuse to her family members in 2008, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Stearns County District Court.

"They punished Doe 596 for being lazy and not studying when learning continued to be difficult for her," according to the court filing. "Doe 596 was called stupid, physically punished and was sexually abused repeatedly ... and told that it was an attempt to rid her of evil, laziness and stupidity."

After the victim reported the assaults in 2008, her father reported it to Robert and Christopher Sis, according to the filing. The lawsuit contends his life was threatened if he reported the abuse to others or the authorities.

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This is the reason the plaintiff did not report her allegations again until recently, according to the court document. It states that the incidents have kept the victim from performing daily activities and enjoying life.

"Plaintiff has suffered, and will continue to suffer, great pain of mind and body, severe and permanent emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, physical, personal and psychological injuries," the complaint said.

Buildings at the address for Holy Innocents Catholic School are pictured Monday, Dec. 3, in Waite Park.Buy Photo

When the woman tried to press criminal charges this year, she was told by Stearns County that the criminal statute of limitations had expired. She decided to move forward with the civil suit.

The lawsuit seeks at least $50,000, plus other costs and fees. The victim also wants the school to close and all of the accused "be forever prevented from operating or working at a school in the State of Minnesota," according to the complaint.








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