March 15, 2005

Catholic School Facing 4th Suit

Tampa Tribune

Published: Mar 15, 2005

TAMPA - Mary Help of Christians School is facing its fourth lawsuit filed since 2002 alleging young male students were molested by clergy members who taught there.

A Miami man filed the most recent suit Friday, alleging sexual misconduct by former principal Father Kevin O'Brien.

Richard Peterson Jr., who attended the school from 1976 until 1979, says the abuse took place in the principal's office during the last two years he attended classes at the Catholic school on Chelsea Street.

O'Brien, Peterson says, told him the molestation was a form of punishment for misbehaving in school. The priest said he had permission from the boy's parents and from the Catholic church to administer discipline however he pleased, according to the suit.

School officials referred comment to the Salesians of Don Bosco, the New York- based Catholic order that runs the school.

Father Jim Heuser, Salesian provincial for the eastern United States, said he could not comment directly on the lawsuit, but said the order has made apologies to youths who were victimized while under Salesian care.

Posted by kshaw at March 15, 2005 09:13 AM