Ex-Peabody Gym Teacher Sexually Abused at Least 13 Boys, Lawsuit Claims

The lawsuit claims the men who were abused between 1969 and 1996 have all suffered extreme physical and emotional distress and have incurred costs and damages associated with the abuse


Thirteen Massachusetts men allege in a class action lawsuit that they were sexually abused as children by a former Peabody gym teacher, and lawyers representing the group believe there could be hundreds of other victims out there.

John Does 1001-1013, as they're listed in the lawsuit, were students at either Higgins Middle School or the John F. Kennedy Junior High School when they were allegedly abused by the teacher over the course of more than three decades.

The City of Peabody is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. One of the attorneys representing the men, Boston attorney Carmen Durso, said during a Zoom conference call Wednesday that the action is being brought against Peabody for its "negligence in failing to properly train, supervise and discipline" the teacher "over a period of 34 years during which time [he] sexually abused in excess of 13 minor students in Massachusetts."

The plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Massachusetts Superior Court, claim the teacher sexually abused, assaulted and battered them. The filing contains graphic and disturbing allegations of the abuse the men say they suffered as children, including rape, choking, spanking, fondling, molestation and kicking.

The teacher allegedly watched the boys in the shower and provided them with alcohol and drugs, which he encouraged them to use during sex acts, the lawsuit states. According to Durso, the boys were between the ages of 11-16 when the abuse happened, between 1969 and 1996.

"They were young," he said. "Some had just reached puberty."

The teacher didn't reply to requests for comment from The Boston Globe and WGBH this week, they reported. A lawyer for the City of Peabody said Wednesday the city would respond after it was served a copy of the complaint, according to the Globe.

The attorneys said no formal notice was sent to Peabody officials.

The lawsuit claims the men have all suffered extreme physical and emotional distress and have incurred costs and damages associated with the abuse. The suit alleges the abuse interfered with the boys' education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating and sexually offensive school environment.

"My frequent nightmares pale in comparison to the daydreams of him watching us shower, of his assault and abuse of me, days that I have relived countless times since with the very real, almost debilitating, flood of emotions from utter helplessness to acute terror, and then seesawing to sheer rage," one of the men said in a statement, read by his wife on Wednesday's Zoom call.

He shared that in his life he has made poor choices as he tried to mask the pain of these events, writing, "I live with untold invisible scars from voyeurism, sexual violation and the physical assault I suffered at the hands of my gym teacher and coach. I tried to bury it but it changed the course of my life and it has had a subluminal influence on me from that day forward."

Another man, identified as John Doe 1011, said that, even after all these years, he finds it difficult to talk about what happened to him.

"He assaulted me by putting Bengay in my underwear. When I went into his office to tell him about the burning sensation I was having, he then took me to a remote janitor's closet on the other side of the building, separated from the locker room, where he sexually molested me," the man shared. "He was my gym teacher at the time. When this abuse occurred, I felt alone. I was afraid. I told very few people. I was a shy, awkward kid like many of us are at that age."

The man said when he got home from school that day he was ready to tell his parents what had happened, but he alleges the teacher had already preemptively called them and told them a concocted story about discussing personal hygiene with him after gym class that day.

"They believed his ruse at the time," the man said of his parents reaction, adding that he wonders if there's more he should have done back then to bring his story to light.

Durso and his co-counsel Michael Heineman say sexual abuse in schools is a major problem, noting it has been for many years.

"Sexual abuse in education is the clergy abuse crisis of this decade," Durso added. "It is clearly the area in which most of the institutional sex abuse is occurring in the United States and in [Massachusetts]."

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