Jackson County

Lawsuit: Child, then 6, molested by older student at St. Alphonsus

St. Alphonsus Catholic School, situated under moss-draped oaks in downtown Ocean Springs, educates children from preschool through sixth grade. The school, its principal and the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi are being sued by a guardian who claims an older boy molested a younger one during the afterschool program in May 2011.
St. Alphonsus Catholic School, situated under moss-draped oaks in downtown Ocean Springs, educates children from preschool through sixth grade. The school, its principal and the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi are being sued by a guardian who claims an older boy molested a younger one during the afterschool program in May 2011.

The guardian of a former St. Alphonsus Catholic School student is suing the school and the Catholic Diocese, alleging the child was sexually assaulted at age 6 by a 12-year-old student while both were in an after-school program.

The lawsuit says the older boy put his mouth on the younger child’s genitals in a bathroom off the school cafeteria in May 2011. The lawsuit says the 12-year-old also was “French kissing” the 6-year-old during the 30 minutes to two hours they were in the bathroom.

St. Alphonsus and the Catholic Diocese were aware the older boy had a history of aggression toward younger students, the lawsuit says, even requiring him at one point to be psychologically evaluated before continuing his education there. The lawsuit also names principal Pamela Rogers, who the parents claim tried to dissuade them from contacting law enforcement authorities when they reported the alleged abuse to her.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Ocean Springs attorney Jonathan Franco, represents only the alleged victim’s side of the story. Gulfport attorney Joe Sam Owen, who represents the diocese, said he just received a copy of the lawsuit and needs time to review it before commenting.

The lawsuit accuses the diocese, school and principal of negligence. It further says the school and diocese committed gross negligence, showing “reckless disregard” for the safety of its students.

The guardian is asking on the 6-year-old’s behalf for an unspecified amount in damages, including punitive damages, plus legal fees and other expenses. The Sun Herald does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault or juveniles who may have committed a crime. The lawsuit refers to them only by initials.

Regardless of the older child’s aggression toward younger children, the lawsuit says, “it is reasonably foreseeable that if you allow young children to disappear for long periods of time unsupervised, that harm will occur.”

Both children were enrolled in an after-school program at St. Alphonsus, the lawsuit says. They were on the playground when the older boy asked a relative working in the program if he could take the 6-year-old to the bathroom. The relative consented, the lawsuit says.

The 6-year-old told his parents the next month about being French-kissed in the bathroom. The lawsuit says his parents immediately reported the incident to Rogers. That was when Rogers told the parents about the sixth-grader’s history with younger students, the lawsuit says.

She told them “that the school had issued an edict to all staff at the school to separate (him) from younger children and that (he) was to be closely supervised when co-mingled with younger children.”

In July 2011, the 6-year-old told his parents about the oral rape, the lawsuit says. They called the principal after the boy went to bed. The lawsuit says she “attempted to persuade” the parents not to call police.

The alleged victim and his parents now live in Nevada. The lawsuit says the boy suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and ADHD because of the abuse. His behaviors have included wringing his hands until they bleed and ripping out his hair.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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