St. John: All background checks were clear on former teacher accused of sexual abuse

By Monique Lopez
WLUK FOX 11 News
August 28, 2019

[with video]

A former Franciscan brother accused of having multiple child sexual assaults has ties in Wisconsin.

Paul West, 59, is a former Catholic school grade teacher in Little Chute and is believed to be living in Appleton.

A clergy sex abuse survivors group now says West sexually assaulted multiple children in Appleton.

The alleged abuse of three young Mississippi boys began in the late 90s.

Paul West worked at a Catholic school in Greenwood, Miss., at the time.

The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) says he would take the boys with him on summer trips to the Fox Valley.

“He took these children on various trips out of Mississippi for the purposes of sexually assaulting them in other states, and that includes Wisconsin,” Peter Isely, one of the founders of SNAP said. “He assaulted them in Appleton, Wis. at his mother’s house, and other locations.”

West belonged to the Franciscan Friar Assumption that is headquartered near Milwaukee.

An Associated Press report says the organization paid West's alleged victims to stay quiet.

“That’s a violation right there of the United States Bishop’s policy on sexual abuse,” said Isely. “You cannot have non-disclosure agreements now with these cases since 2002.”

West left Mississippi in 1998 after the alleged abuse was first reported.

St. John Nepomucene School in Little Chute hired West in 1999.

“Church officials knew that he had this history; he had done this recently, and here he is teaching this class,” Isely said. “That’s such a betrayal!”

FOX 11 obtained this statement from St. John School:

During the time that Mr. West was employed, background checks were completed by the Diocese of Green Bay in 2004, 2008, and 2012, as part of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and all reports came back clear.

“What would be even more horrendous is that he told them, and they gave him the job,” said Isely. “There's a lot of questions, and somebody either lied, or they allowed him to have that position, knowing that he had that history."

West taught fifth grade at St. John until 2010.

The school didn't say why West's employment there ended.

The statement we received today does also say:

Neither Saint John Catholic School, nor the Diocese of Green Bay have received any allegations during his tenure or since related to Mr. West's employment at Saint John Catholic School.

The school says it is important to note that since 1994, West was also a licensed teacher through the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. As part of his licensure, background checks would have been run and repeated every five years as part of his DPI teacher license renewal.

St. John says the school nor the Diocese of Green Bay have ever received any allegations during his time at St. John.

It is not known if West has any victims in Wisconsin.

Our follow-up with the Franciscan Friars near Milwaukee revealed that West left the order in 2002.

We received this statement:

It is awful what happened. It is reprehensible. It is painful for the survivors. We, friars, are broken hearted about the abuse which took place.

On Wednesday the St. Francis grade school in Mississippi they are dedicated to the well-being of their students and are requiring priests and faculty to participate in the VIRTUS program, which aims to prevent abuse and improves the lives of those who interact with the Church.

Fox 11 reached out to one of West's alleged victims. He says his lawyer is telling him to stop giving interviews.

We also checked with the Appleton Police Department and the Outagamie County Sheriff's Office. Neither has an investigation on file involving Paul West.

St. John School officials say if you know of an incident of sexual abuse, you are encouraged to contact local law enforcement.


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