A class action lawsuit filed Wednesday morning alleges that Bishop England High School officials watched and recorded naked male and female students in the Daniel Island Catholic school’s locker rooms.
The suit, filed in Berkeley County Feb. 3 against the school and the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, is asking for $150 million to those who have paid tuition to the school and an additional $150 million in damages paid to the alleged victims of the voyeurism.
“For at least two decades (since 1998), BEHS students were made and required to disrobe partially or fully, exposing themselves in locker rooms controlled by Defendants BEHS and the Diocese,” the suit claims.
“Each of the locker rooms (boys and girls) were subject to viewing through a large glass window,” according to the suit. “At some times, the referenced students were completely clothed. At times, the students were partially or completely nude.”
A roughly 4-foot square window in each of the three locker rooms, two male and one female, was installed between a staff office and the area commonly used by students to change, shower and use the restroom. A total of 600 victims are included in the class-action lawsuit, ranging in age from current underage students to graduates and tuition-paying families.
The windows were boarded up and replaced by a brick wall after an employee was found to have recorded and downloaded video footage of school-age children in the locker rooms, according to a statement from the Diocese, which said the windows were installed for a reason.
“Their purpose was to allow coaches to monitor for fights, bullying, smoking or any type of inappropriate activity that might occur within the locker rooms,” the Diocese said. “The plaintiff’s claim that the windows were installed for the sole purpose of exploiting students is simply ludicrous.”
The victims named in the suit are represented by attorneys from The Richter Law Firm, Solomon Law Group, Slotchiver & Slotchiver and Brent Souther Halversen.
Attorney Lawrence Richter’s firm has handled claims of sexual activities by priests and other officials and affiliates with the Diocese for years, according to a statement provided at a Feb. 4 press conference. The Diocese faced another sexual abuse suit as recent as Jan. 4, 2021.
“This firm has been handling claims for sexually abusive activities by priests and other officials of the Diocese of Charleston,” Richter said. “I’ve litigated with them many times and have received many promises from them — I had thought enough to stop it.
“Each time we filed one of these suits … I have fervently hoped that it would be the last, and it never is,” he said. “This is a far greater problem than persons not intimately connected with it in some way could ever know or appreciate.”
Richter, who graduated from Bishop England in 1964 and served as a state senator for two years, is also the parent of three daughters who graduated from the school. That connection allows him to better understand the nature of these crimes as well as the mental state of the victims, he said.
“You learn never to challenge the hierarchy of the church, the priesthood and the nunhood, you get conditioned,” he said. “I like to think that in today’s society, the way we communicate is better now, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that … these are kids. They’d say, ‘I thought we follow the rules, whatever they are; you’re Mr. Rule-maker.’ ”
Richter’s history of dealing with the Diocese is lengthy, but he said this issue permeates more places than just Charleston.
“I have done a hundred of these cases, not just against the Diocese of Charleston, it’s everywhere. You have no idea how … and I think I know my way around the block, but I didn’t properly perceive how broad-based this is or how devastating it is.
“These people who are victimized have their guts ripped out. They lose everything. They lose their entire youth first and then their entire life, sometimes literally.”