In a lawsuit filed Monday, former Catlin Gabel student Kim Wilson sued the private school for child sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her sixth-grade math teacher, Richardson Shoemaker.
Shoemaker was one of 21 former teachers and staff at Catlin Gabel discussed in a report on sexual abuse that the school release last month. The report discussed sexual impropriety by adults at the school with minors dating back to the 1960s that ranged from boundary violations and grooming to criminal acts of sexual assault. Shoemaker, known at Catlin Gabel as “Shoe,” was one of six men identified by name and with detailed allegations of his sexual molestation of minors.
“The report shows a culture that fostered sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel and other sexually inappropriate conduct by adults with students,” said Gilion Dumas, one of the attorneys representing Wilson. “The school put its reputation before the safety of the children in its care, turning a blind eye to sexual predators on its campus,” Dumas said. Dumas and her law partner Ashley Vaughn specialize in cases involving victims of child sexual abuse.
The lawsuit filed includes claims for Catlin Gabel’s negligence and fraud, alleging that the school knew Shoemaker had molested other girls prior to his abuse of Wilson in the 1994-95 school year. The lawsuit also alleges that the school is vicariously liable for Shoemaker’s abuse of Wilson because his abuse arose out of his duties as a teacher. The lawsuit seeks $4.5 million in damages.
“A big reason I’m coming forward is to shed light on Catlin’s failure to protect children and acknowledge the harm the school caused,” said Wilson. “Catlin knew for years that Shoe was a child molester and did nothing to protect girls like me.”
The lawsuit goes into specific details of the allegations against Shoemaker.
Shoemake was never criminally prosecuted. He died in 2018.
In October 2018, Wilson made a public post on Facebook:
I was in 6th grade when I was molested.
11 years old.
I was molested by my teacher, in my classroom.
I was uncomfortable but was too young and innocent to completely understand it was wrong. 8 years later, a group of 6th grade girls stood up and spoke out. 11 year old girls spoke out against a "GOD" within the school. A leader in the school, his face painted on the side of a bus, his name everywhere. Their words were silenced and swept under the rug. I was 19 at the time, living in Ireland, and an investigator called me. Over the phone I dug up memories of a man who forced girls to come "sit on his lap" while he helped them solve math problems. He would take he left hand and put it up the back and front of a girl’s shirt.
I never heard from the investigator again, I never heard from the school again. The school silenced the uncomfortable truth.
It wasn't until I was 19 that I began to understand why I could never ask for help in math. Why I fought male teachers and couldn't learn from them. As I found this enlightenment, I was crushed with the realization that my truths, the truths of women and girls, is easily silenced.
Victims of sexual assault stay quiet because society would rather sweep uncomfortable truths under the rug then allow GODs to fall. It is time to listen, it is time to speak out, it is time to have leaders that will protect us.
She believes it was this post and the social media reaction to it that prompted Catlin Gabel to undertake its year-long investigation of sexual abuse at the school.
“The school’s internal investigation was professional, but incomplete,” said Wilson’s attorney Ashley Vaughn. The school’s investigator only talked to “self-identified” victims — Catlin Gabel did not follow up on reports of other students being abused. As the report puts it: “The investigator did not engage in any proactive outreach to those identified, or those believed by others to be victims/survivors of inappropriate behavior by Catlin Gabel employees.”
The report also did not cover physical abuse. Dumas said that several Catlin alumni reported to the school’s investigator that they experienced or witnessed physical abuse at Catlin Gabel. “Many of those allegations involved Mark Peterson,” Dumas said. Peterson was named in the report regarding allegations of sexual misconduct, but Catlin Gabel did not include allegations of physical child abuse in its report.
“There are likely many more former Catlin students who were affected by physical and sexual abuse at Catlin Gabel and the sexualized culture of the school. Whether kids were assaulted or sexually exploited themselves, or know others who were, those stories have yet to come out,” said Dumas. “I think we will hear more from Catlin Gabel alumni.”
Source: Dumas & Vaughn, Attorneys at Law