Horror Stories about Deaf School
Lawsuit against former facility in Randolph lists claims of sex abuse

By Sue Reinert
Patriot Ledger
August 18, 2004

The Patriot Ledger Valerie Morrison's eyes filled with tears as she described how a nun at a Randolph school for deaf children allegedly locked her in the boys' bathroom with a frightened boy for four hours.

When she finally escaped from the room, she said she saw the nun having sex with a male employee of the Boston School for the Deaf.

"I was shocked. It was awful," Morrison, who lives in Quincy, said through a sign-language interpreter.

The incidents occurred when Morrison, now 42, was 9 years old and a student at the Boston School for the Deaf, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday.

Morrison and eight other former students are suing nuns, priests and other teachers at the now-defunct school, which was operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The lawsuit claims, among other things, that some students were beaten with canes and boxing gloves, forced to drink another student's urine, compelled to engage in sex with a nun and watch others in sexual acts, and confined in a dark closet for hours.

Six plaintiffs spoke through interpreters yesterday at a press conference in Boston organized by their lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian. He filed another suit on May 13 on behalf of nine other former students at the school, including a brother and sister who live in Quincy and Rockland.

Garabedian represented many of the plaintiffs in sex-abuse suits against Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston that resulted in multi-million dollar settlements.

Sister Joanne Gallagher, spokeswoman for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, said: "At this time we are not aware of any evidence to support these allegations."

Sister Gallagher said in an E-mail response to questions that two nuns named in the May complaint have "voluntarily removed themselves" from positions "ministering to children." She declined to name the nuns or their positions.

The Boston congregation began investigating the abuse allegations after the first lawsuit was filed, but it "is difficult since it spans more than 60 years," Sister Gallagher said.

She said investigators "have not been granted access to any of the plaintiffs who were part of the original complaint."

William Shaevel, attorney for the congregation, told the Associated Press: "These cases are based upon repressed memory, and they could be wrong."

The suit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court names as defendants 13 nuns and two male coaches who allegedly worked at the school from the 1960s to the early 1990s. Another eight nuns, two priests and nine supervisors were not identified because the plaintiffs have not yet learned their names.

The defendants who were named are Sister Mary McAvoy, Sister Margaret Flaherty, Sister Mary Carl Boland, Sister Miriam Theresa Ringer, Sister Mary Kiernan McCormack, Sister John Elizabeth Murphy, Sister Margaret Joyce, Sister M. Joanita O'Connor, Sister Eymard McGrane, Sister Alice Kirby, Sister Helen Thomas, Sister Helen Callahan and Sister Bernadette Kenney. Also named were Gary Gedney and Fred McCormack, who were identified in the suit as coaches and teachers at the school.

The suit said Sister Mary Kiernan McCormack and Sister Miriam Theresa Ringer live in Rockland, Sister Helen Callahan in Braintree and Sister Bernadette Kenney in Milton.

None of the named defendants could be reached for comment.

The five men and four women who filed suit yesterday were between 4 and 15 when the alleged abuse took place between 1936 and 1984. The plaintiffs are now between 39 and 72 years old. The oldest, Nicholas Giancioppo of Needham, said when he was 11 or 12 a nun watched him and other boys as they showered naked.

"One boy reported it to the principal," he said. "The principal asked us if it was true, and we said yes. They punished us because we were lying."

Garabedian said he now represents 80 people who say they were abused between 1936 and 1991, when they were between the ages of 4 and 17.

Morrison said her parents sent her to the school because "they thought it would be a good school for me. It was a specialized school."

Garabedian said some students dropped out of school because of the alleged abuse. "The nuns and priests preyed on them year after year," he said.

The school, which was staffed and administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph, closed in 1994 for financial reasons. The Boston Higashi School for autistic children now rents part of the North Main Street property.

Sue Reinert may be reached at Material from the Associated Press was included in this story.


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