Lawyer Says School Legally Responsible for Abuse by Teacher

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 27, 2003

A Roman Catholic high school is legally responsible for the actions of a teacher accused of molesting a student during the 1970s, the lawyer for the alleged victim said in a court motion filed Tuesday.

But Bishop Guertin High School has said it cannot be held accountable for the allegations against Brother Guy Beaulieu, who has admitted molesting as many as 20 students at the Nashua school. He has not been charged with any crime.

Lawyers for the school and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Rhode Island-based order that owns it, say there is no legal agreement between Beaulieu and the organizations that makes them liable for his actions.

But in Tuesday's motion, filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court, lawyer Peter Hutchins said the vow of poverty Beaulieu and other members of the order make when joining is a contract that makes the order financially responsible for the brother, so long as he is a member of the organization. That would include compensation "for civil judgments against individual brothers arising from allegations of sexual misconduct against students of the Order's schools," Hutchins wrote.

"To suggest otherwise would allow the order to 'pick and choose' situations to which the vow of poverty ... between brothers and the order would apply," Hutchins wrote.

David Pinsonneault, a lawyer for the order and the school, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Hutchins has sued the order, the school and Beaulieu on behalf of Kevin Dandley, who says Beaulieu molested him when he was 14 while he attended a church summer camp during the early 1970s. Beaulieu worked at the camp some summers.

Dandley, 43, of Hudson, said the abuse continued when he later enrolled at the school and lasted until 1975 when the teacher tried to force the boy to perform oral sex on him. Dandley left the school shortly after, but did not tell officials why.

In Tuesday's motion, Hutchins also said the order has a history of paying for the legal fees, treatment and other expenses of members of the order accused or convicted of sexual misconduct.

Hutchins said that when questioned for this case Brother Leo Labbe, who was president of the school from 1991 to 2002, said the order had paid not only the legal fees for a brother convicted of assaulting a 15-year-old girl, but also the court-ordered counseling for the victim the brother had been ordered to pay.

That brother, Shawn McEnany, was arrested in 1997 after an Associated Press story revealed the school had hired him despite knowing he was convicted as a sex offender in Maine in 1988.

Hutchins also said the school paid for sex addiction treatment for an unnamed member of the order who taught at the order during the 1980s and 1990s.

"There is no indication in the record that Leo Labbe, as principal of Bishop Guertin at the time, disclosed this addition or treatment, or otherwise warned, students or parents association with the school during that year," Hutchins wrote.

Labbe, reached by phone in Nasuha on Tuesday, referred any comment to Pinsonneault.

"I don't know anything about it," he said of Hutchins' motion.

Among other incidents Hutchins said the order has paid for:

- Treatment for Beaulieu, who taught at Bishop Guertin from 1971 to 1991.

- Legal representation for Labbe, who is accused of molesting a student more than 40 years ago; Labbe denies it.

- Treatment for several brothers caught during the late 1990s viewing pornography on school computers.

- Treatment for Brother Roger Argencourt, who also was accused of abuse. He left the school in January 2002 and died last September. Argencourt admitted to the abuse, but was not charged because the statute of limitations had expired.


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