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Stearns County Judge Allows Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Holy Innocents’ School to Move Forward

Judge Nathaniel Welte found sufficient evidence that the Waite Park School’s ongoing concealment of sexual abuse creates a danger to the public

 (St. Paul, MN) – On Wednesday Stearns County District Court Judge Nathaniel Welte refused Holy Innocents’ School’s request to dismiss a public nuisance lawsuit brought against it by a former student who alleges she suffered sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse by staff members and teachers when she was a student there in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The survivor, identified as Doe 596 in her lawsuit, filed the case in December, 2018.

“The Judge’s decision is acknowledgement and affirmation of Doe 596’s incredible courage and resolve to fight not only for herself, but to protect other children from the horrors she endured as a child at Holy Innocents’,” said Attorney Josh Peck of Jeff Anderson & Associates, who represents Doe 596 together with Waite Park Attorney Mike Bryant.

In his written order Judge Welte ruled that the case should go forward because there is sufficient evidence that Holy Innocents’ poses a public hazard and has “engaged in continuing acts of concealment” of sexual abuse. A trial date will now be set for sometime in 2021.

“For decades Holy Innocents’ has been able to operate in secret with no checks, and without anyone looking out for the kids there who have no voice to speak for them,” said Bryant. “It would have continued that way if not for Doe 596 coming forward and sharing the horrors that go on behind its walls.”

 

Additional Case & Perpetrator Information

Doe 596 brought her lawsuit in December of 2018, alleging almost daily sexual, physical, psychological and emotional abuse by teachers and staff at Holy Innocents’ School from 1978 to 1984 when she was 5 to 11 years old. Doe 596 reports she was sexually abused by several members of the Sis family who still own and operate the private Catholic School, including principal and founder Robert Sis. Doe 596 was also abused by Fr. Lawrence Brey, a Catholic Priest who lived at Holy Innocents’ and served as its chaplain for 30 years while he was on leave from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

As an adult in 2008, after years of therapy and counseling, Doe 596 disclosed the abuse to her parents. Her father confronted Robert Sis soon after, which was then documented in school records uncovered in the litigation. In response to the report, Robert Sis’ son, and the School’s corporate treasurer threatened Doe 596’s father not to tell anyone else about the abuse. Holy Innocents’ School Board discussed the report, but never told students at the school or their families. Robert Sis remained the principal of the school until his death earlier this year, and most of the teachers who abused Doe 596 are still there today.

In early 2018, after attending a Catholic spiritual retreat for survivors of sexual abuse, Doe 596 went to the Waite Park Police and Stearns County Sheriff’s Office to report what happened to her. When she was told that criminal charges could not be brought because the statute of limitations, she brought her lawsuit, alleging that Holy Innocents’ is a public nuisance and poses an ongoing hazard to the public as long as it remains open and continues to operate. Doe 596 is seeking damages and a court order to close the school permanently. Earlier this year, Holy Innocents’ asked Judge Welte to throw out Doe 596’s lawsuit, and the Judge heard oral arguments in August.