St. Mary's Prep teacher: I was fired for reporting sex assault of student
By John Wisely
Detroit Free Press
January 29, 2021
|Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep.|
A former longtime teacher claims Orchard Lake St. Mary's Preparatory High School fired him after he relayed a student's account of being sexually assaulted by older classmates.
Donald Ambrose taught literature at the Catholic school for more than 20 years until May 2019. He claims in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that he was fired after pressing school officials to investigate the assault, which occurred on a weekend religious retreat.
The school, which had enrolled only boys until 2020, claimed Ambrose was terminated because of parental complaints about his performance and a run-in with a student who had been disciplined.
"The stated reasons for Donald Ambrose’s termination are mere pretext for unlawful retaliation for Donald Ambrose complaining of the unlawful sexual assault ... and the deliberate indifference of the administration," the lawsuit claims.
The Free Press generally doesn't name, without permission, individuals who claim sexual abuse.
School officials wouldn't comment on the dismissal but disputed the claims in the lawsuit.
"There are multiple false allegations made in this lawsuit. We plan to present the truth in court," Stephen Gross, chairman of the school's board of regents said in a statement. "The administration conducted an investigation immediately upon learning of these accusations, which was overseen by a member of our board. We are confident once this information is made public, it will prove the school acted in a completely appropriate manner."
Gross added that student safety is a top priority at the school.
"We take any allegation of unsafe behavior or misconduct seriously and do not tolerate any behavior that jeopardizes the health and safety of any student," Gross said in the statement.
The lawsuit comes six weeks after two former employees sued the school's chancellor, the Rev. Miroslaw Krol, claiming he retaliated against them after they rebuffed his sexual advances.
Those men, one a priest and the other a lay staffer, worked for Krol at St. Cyril & Methodius Seminary and at a Polish mission, which share a campus with the high school on the shores of Orchard Lake.
Krol denied the allegations in that suit and the school said in a statement that it handled the investigation appropriately. That suit is pending in federal court.
Ambrose claims in his suit that the student was a junior in March 2019 when attending a weekend religious retreat with classmates at the Jesuit-run Colombiere Conference & Retreat Center in Clarkston.
The other students spent their evenings playing "sexualized games," including "Naked Bowling."
"They would undress in the large locker room style shower, coat the shower with soap and water, and roll or throw a naked student onto the floor in order to topple the standing naked students acting as pins," according to the suit.
Another game was known as "Stanky Pretzel," in which naked students would sit on the face of other students, according to the suit.
School chaperones on the trip were aware of the games, the suit claims.
One student didn't want to participate in the games and went to bed. The other student burst into his room clad only in towels and grabbed him, attempted to undress him and force him to participate.
The student fended off the attack and later barricaded his door to prevent additional entreaties from the seniors, according to the suit.
After the student told Ambrose about the attack, Ambrose said he relayed the report to school headmaster Bob Pyles, who dismissed it, saying the severity of the attack "ranked at about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10," according to the lawsuit.
Ambrose grew frustrated with the lack of an investigation and two months after the retreat, met with Krol to discuss it. Krol assured him he wouldn't be fired for making the report.
Nine days later, Todd Covert, the CEO of Orchard Lake Schools, which includes both the seminary and the high school, fired Ambrose, according to the suit.
The suit seeks more than $75,000 in damages for "lost wages and fringe benefits as well as non-economic injuries including but not limited to extreme emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, and pain and suffering."