St. Augustine High School responded publicly Tuesday to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a former seventh-grade marching band member who claims the school failed to prevent another band member from sexually assaulting him during a Florida trip last year.
While not addressing the lawsuit directly, the statement from the all-boys Catholic school said administrators cooperated with authorities in both Florida and New Orleans and took disciplinary action against the boy accused in the hotel room attack.
“We are limited by law in what we are permitted to say about the circumstances of this specific case. Our hearts are broken by this tragedy,” the statement said. “Our students are part of our family, and any actions against any of them contradict every value St. Augustine High School upholds as a caring Christian community.”
In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, the boy’s mother claims the school and Principal Sean Goodwin failed to provide adequate adult supervision during the trip, resulting in a rape on Jan. 18, 2015. The lawsuit cited the school’s “reluctance to address the situation” as a reason the boy subsequently dropped out of St. Augustine.
Band members were staying four to a room during the trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Marching 100 Purple Knights performed at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, said the family’s attorney, Garron Johnson. One boy was in the shower and another was asleep in the room when a third boy raped his client, Johnson said.
The boy “dreamed about going to St. Aug to be in the band. Not only was he violated sexually, but his dreams were also violated,” Johnson said.
In its statement, the school says it reported to “appropriate authorities in Tampa and New Orleans.”
New Orleans Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said the alleged assault was reported at Children’s Hospital two days later, on Jan. 20, 2015. Gamble said the NOPD notified the school and alerted police in Tampa, where the hotel is located. A Tampa police spokesman could not immediately provide information on the case late Tuesday.
The New Orleans Advocate does not identify purported victims of sexual assault.
“To be clear, any form of violence at St. Augustine is not tolerated,” the school’s statement read. “Further, our discipline policies specify severe consequences for students who jeopardize the safety of others, and we enforce these policies up to and including expulsion for the most egregious behaviors. That is exactly what happened in this instance.”
Johnson confirmed that the alleged assailant was expelled.
The lawsuit does not specify a dollar figure for requested damages.
It says the boy, now 13, has suffered “emotional distress.”
Goodwin did not attend the Florida trip, Johnson said.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.