Lawsuit File
Group Seeks to Keep Priest Away from Catholic School

By Tracy Weber
Orange County Register
April 15, 1992

A group of parents and teachers from St. Joseph Roman Catholic Elementary School in Placentia filed suit Tuesday asking for a temporary restraining order to keep their parish priest off school grounds.

The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, alleges that the Rev. John E. Ruhl physically assaulted and threatened five women, including the principal, and a kindergartener at the school.

"He would scream at them: 'What are you doing? Why are you doing that? ' He'd just scream at their face and shove them against the wall," said Theresa Carey, the attorney representing the parents and teachers.

Named as defendents in the suit are Ruhl, the Diocese of Orange, Bishop Norman F. McFarland, Bishop Michael Driscoll and other diocese officials.

Monsignor John Urell, McFarland's secretary, said the charges that Ruhl physically assaulted staff and students are under investigation by a diocese committee headed by Driscoll, and he could not comment on them.

Ruhl has taken a leave of absence to care for an ailing family member, Urell said. He did not know when Ruhl would return to the school.

The suit also states that the students and staff are being exposed to and sickened by "hazardous substances" in classrooms and that Ruhl and the diocese have refused to correct the problem.

The parents and teachers ask that they be allowed to bring in their own toxicologist to examine the rooms.

Urell said the diocese has had a local environmental company and a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency examine the classrooms and both reported no problems.

A county public-health officer will test the classrooms during the Easter break, which begins Thursday afternoon, Urell said.


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