On the heels of the local SF Catholic Archdiocese declaring bankruptcy over sex-abuse lawsuits, one prestigious prep school affiliated with the archdiocese is facing a lawsuit alleging that a teacher kissed and groped multiple students.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco just declared bankruptcy Monday, and made no secret of the fact they did this for financial protection from the 500-plus child sex abuse lawsuits they are facing. And there are 90 private Catholic schools under the jurisdiction of the archdiocese, though legally, schools and individual parishes are separate entities and not affected by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy declaration. But one those schools, St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, is now facing its own staff sexual misconduct lawsuit, according to the Chronicle.
The teacher in question is Peter Devine, who’d taught English and drama at the school for more than 40 years before “retiring” last year once the lawsuit hit. The above report from NBC Bay Area discusses the lurid allegations in detail. But it also reveals another surprising tidbit: as seen in the video above, Devine actually got a shout-out from SF native and St. Ignatius alum Darren Criss at the 2015 Tony Awards.
But, apparently, multiple other alums were left rattled by Devine’s advances when they were high school students, and they were not such fans.
As the Examiner explains, the lawsuit is from a now 41-year-old former student who is not named. That plaintiff alleges that after a school theater meeting in 1996, Devine put his hands on the plaintiff's shoulders and said "We're men and men can kiss on the lips. Isn't that right?" The lawsuit claims Devine then "aggressively" kissed the plaintiff, who admits he "froze as the kiss continued." The lawsuit alleges Devine continued "further touching and physical manipulation" with the plaintiff for the rest of his education at St. Ignatius.
Devine has not returned comment to multiple media organizations since the story broke. St. Ignatius told NBC Bay Area that they “do not comment on pending litigation.” But the school did send an email to parents Monday letting them know that yeah, some very bad headlines about the school were on the way.
The Examiner references a separate 2006 incident, where another teacher allegedly saw Devine "pinning a male student against a wall" backstage at the school theater. The suit says once Devine realized the faculty member was watching him, he "immediately stepped away from the boy, appeared embarrassed and annoyed, and walked away." That faculty member is not named.
But NBC Bay Area’s report seems to have tracked her down. “I saw a student pinned up against the wall by Mr. Devine,” former St. Ignatius instructor Sara Phillips-Ritchey told the station. “The student looked trapped. He looked very uncomfortable. Mr. Devine had one hand on either side of the student’s head.”
Phillips-Ritchey reported the incident but there appears to have been no follow-up. “Nobody ever spoke to me,” she told NBC Bay Area. “Nobody ever asked me to describe what I saw. I was not interviewed. And to me, that was very, very concerning.”
To their credit, St. Ignatius (SI) did hire an outside investigator after the lawsuit was filed in April 2022. That investigator turned up more alleged abuse. In their report, the investigator noted, “Another former SI Teacher said that in September 2020, she received a text or saw a post from a former female SI student who said that ‘three different alums’ from ‘different years of graduation’ had alleged that Devine had assaulted them.”
Still, the school is in damage control mode. NBC Bay Area obtained the full email that the school sent to parents Monday, when it was clear this would be all over the newspapers.
“In April of 2022, the alum informed Principal Michelle Levine about the incident from 1996. Principal Levine immediately filed a report with the SFPD and put the teacher on administrative leave,” the email said. “The school hired an outside independent investigator to investigate the allegations. Upon receiving the results of the investigation, SI immediately and promptly took appropriate action, and the teacher no longer works at SI.”
“We take allegations of abuse very seriously and do everything we can to support the victim,” the email continues, before concluding, “If you or someone you know has been abused, please contact me or local authorities."
If you or someone you love is suffering from the effects of abuse, you can contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) online or at 1-800-656-4673. If the abuse involves the Catholic Church, you can contact SNAP at 1-877-SNAP-HEALS (1-877-762-7432).
Image: St Ignatius College Preparatory School via Yelp