Mitchell Garabedian is the world-renowned attorney who broke the Boston Roman Catholic priest molestation case wide open. Today his practice continues to focus on representing sex abuse victims/survivors.
This morning Mitchell sat down with CCToday to talk a bit about the alleged sexual molestations at Stony Brook Elementary School in Brewster and school sexual molestations in general.
Imperative to Find All Victims
Attorney Garabedian began by telling us that, in any molestation case, it is imperative that all alleged victims be located. “It’s very important that every single child and their parents receive counseling. The damage is too great…” to let a victim remain without support.
Left unsupported, a sex abuse victim/survivor can suffer years of post-traumatic stress. Such stress can manifest itself in anything from poor grades in school, to substance abuse, violent behavior or even the victim becoming a molester himself.
How many victims could there be?
Noah Campbell-Halley reportedly taught at Stony Brook for six and a half years. How many alleged victims might we be looking at? Garabedian said there could be “many, many more coming forward” now that the crisis is out in the open.
“Pedophiles abuse as many children as they can get their hands on,” says Mitchell. A pedophile teacher may not limit his or her activities to the school and could have molested many children outside of school. An opportunistic pedophile can molest hundreds of children over his or her career.
What is the legal exposure of the Brewster public schools?
Mr. Garabedian said there are number of factors that determine exposure. While public institutions enjoy some protections that limit liability in this type of case, there are other factors such as civil rights concerns that can increase liability considerably. “Who was supervising the alleged abuser? How was he screened at the time of hiring? Does the school use an independent, outside investigator to run a full background check on every single employee –a CORI check is not enough.”
Mitchell says that “the risk is too great” not to have a thorough, independent investigation conducted. We asked if that type of investigation would have surfaced the allegations that Campbell-Halley molested a child at Cape Cod Children’s Place in 2010. He felt that a deep, thorough pre-employment investigation probably would have caused that allegation to surface.
Another point is that, “given the number of children that have come forward so far [as many as 4], who were this man’s supervisors? Why didn’t they provide supervision to detect long absences from the classroom, children being pulled into a separate room while the rest of the class was left unsupervised? Were there cameras in existence anywhere in the school, which might have been helpful?”
Depending upon how egregious the negligence by supervisors, the liability to the Town of Brewster could be substantial. “It’s very, very complicated,” reports Mr. Garabedian.
Why didn’t someone at the school notice?
Mitchell told us that “it is well known that children who are abused, act out. Why didn’t some supervisor or other teacher notice changes in the children’s behavior?”
The case was brought to the attention of Brewster Police last weekend when one of the boys’ parents noticed changes in their son’s behavior, especially in relation to Campbell-Halley’s class. The parents talked with their son and ultimately brought the case to the police.
Hypothetically, if a homeroom teacher sends a boy to a computer class and the boy is raped by his teacher during that class, Garabedian says there will be noticeable behavioral changes when that boy returns to homeroom. “He will not be the same boy you sent to computer class.” If a child is being serially molested, a teacher might notice hesitancy or tears when the child is sent out to the class where the abuse typically occurs.
“There are many warning signs and teachers must be trained to observe and report such signs.” They will observe behaviors in a child that are “outside the norm for that particular girl or boy.”
“Open and notorious” behavior?
Garabedian has reviewed the news reports of the alleged abuse in Brewster, where the teacher is accused of taking boys to a windowless “dark room” adjacent to his classroom and molesting one or more children at a time in that room, then returning them to class.
“If the allegations are true, this is what we call ‘open and notorious’ behavior. It’s not hidden, it’s clearly outside the norm for what should be going on in a classroom. Someone working at the school should have noticed.”
“In this case, an adult could’ve walked into that unattended classroom at any time or entered the ‘dark room’ and caught the alleged offender in the act.” This “open and notorious” behavior is often the behavior exhibited by an experienced, confident offender who has developed a certain sense of invulnerability.
More to come
Mr. Garabedian has generously offered to speak with us as new developments continue to emerge in this horrific situation at Stony Brook Elementary School.
Editor’s Note: Attorney Mitchell Garabedian at 617-523-6250 or [email protected]