Brentwood Academy, a well-regarded private boarding school in Tennessee, allowed one sixth grader to suffer horrifying levels of sexual abuse at the hands of four older students, according to a shocking new lawsuit filed in a state circuit court on August 4, 2017.
Warning: This article contains graphic material that may be disturbing to some readers.
Brentwood Academy Failed To Report Abuse, Lawsuit Says
In her lawsuit, the student’s mother (named as Jane Doe to protect the family’s privacy) accuses Brentwood, along with the Christian school’s headmaster Curtis H. Masters, of refusing to report multiple rapes and altogether failing to address a pattern of assault and degrading behavior. Alongside Masters, four students at Brentwood Academy, all of whom were between 14 and 15 at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, are named as defendants in the case. A host of school employees, including two basketball coaches, have also been accused of playing a role in the scandal.
Christian organizations, and particularly Christian boarding schools, have a long and sordid history of concealing sexual abuse from families and law enforcement officials, but this new complaint’s allegations are truly horrific.
The student victim, named as John Doe, was tortured in sexually-explicit ways, often in voyeuristic displays viewed by other students. The four older boys, court documents relate, would force John Doe to perform oral sex, thrusting their genitals into his face with taunts of “eat it, eat, eat it, open your mouth, accept it.” One boy allegedly sodomized the young boy, 12 years old at the time, then boasted to Brentwood Academy’s basketball team about committing anal rape. Harassment, bullying and sexual abuse were continual and extreme, the lawsuit says, but Brentwood officials appear to have cared little for the young child’s plight.
When John Doe eventually mustered the courage to speak out, his reports of abuse were met not with compassion, but Biblical platitudes, his mother claims. Curtis H. Masters, the school’s headmaster, reportedly cited Christ’s famous admonition from the Gospel of Matthew, telling John Doe to “turn the other cheek.” From the headmaster’s perspective, a young boy being assaulted on a regular basis was a matter of fate, the complaint continues. “Everything in God’s kingdom happens for a reason,” the school official reportedly said.
“This isn’t how Christian institutions handle these things.”
John Doe and his mother turned to a number of other school workers for help, but they say all of their attempts fell on deaf ears. Chris Roberts, who works for Daystar Counseling Ministries, a Christian counseling service, allegedly discouraged John Doe’s mother from filing a report with the local police. In allegations that Daystar has vigorously denied, the mother says that, after being confronted, Roberts told her, “reporting this may not be the best thing to do […] this isn’t how Christian institutions handle these things.” Local CBS-affiliate WTKR reports that Roberts, despite being a mandatory reporter, failed to report the allegations of abuse to state authorities. If true, that would be a clear violation of Tennessee law.
Fed up with the school’s alleged lack of response, John Doe’s mother, Jane Doe, ultimately chose to file a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services on her own. Roberts, the lawsuit claims, quickly informed Brentwood of the mother’s intentions, setting off a lengthy back-and-forth during which the school’s headmaster tried to convince Jane Doe to allow the complaints to be handled internally. When the boy’s mother finally went to speak with Headmaster Masters about the ongoing sexual harassment, the administrator allegedly admitted that harassment had taken place, but told her that it was simply a case of “boys being boys.”
Headmaster Curtis Masters denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing. In a statement emailed to USA Today-owned The Tennessean, Masters wrote, “at no point before or during the investigation in 2015 did I (or anyone on our staff to my knowledge) hear any allegation of rape. When we heard of inappropriate activity, we responded immediately and thoroughly, cooperated fully with the authorities, and took appropriate disciplinary action based on what we knew. Certain allegations in the lawsuit and highlighted in the media are not factual, will be disputed, and our defense will be vigorous.”
Jane and John Doe are demanding $30 million in damages, including $15 million in punitive damages.