Orchard Lake school responds to lawsuit outlining series of sexual assault allegations

St. Mary’s Prep student allegedly attacked for not participating in students’ sexualized games

School responds to lawsuit outlining series of sexual assault allegations

WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A lawsuit filed by a father and son alleges that students at one Metro Detroit high school attacked and forced the son to participate in sexualized games during a retreat in 2019.

The father, a longtime teacher at St. Mary’s Preparatory High School in Orchard Lake, and his son, a student, filed a lawsuit outlining a series of sexualized games allegedly played by the school’s student athletes. The lawsuit claims that when the son chose not participate in the games, the other students attacked him.

“The primary example as alleged in the complaint is naked bowling: Where they put soap and water all over the floor of a shower room and then they throw naked bodies at each other. All the boys up there. And they’re left alone to do that,” said Bob Palmer, attorney for the father and son in the case against St. Mary’s officials.

“One of my clients didn’t want to participate and was actually attacked in his room, grabbed at...they tried to drag him in and they relented,” Palmer added.

Both the father and son are alleging that the Orchard Lake Catholic school knew of the so-called naked games that the boys played at the school’s annual “Kairos retreat” at the Colombiere Retreat Center in Clarkston -- but allegedly did nothing to stop it. The lawsuit claims that when the son wanted no part of the games, the other students dragged him from his room and tried to strip him down -- which lawyer Palmer says was essentially sexual assault.

“When everybody’s naked and you’re throwing naked bodies with exposed body parts against other individuals, and when you’re grabbing at somebody in his room and all he’s got on is a pair of underpants, and you’re grabbing his thighs and his stomach, and grabbing at him under the covers ... I certainly think that’s what it is,” Palmer said, describing the boy’s experience.

The alleged incident took place in the spring of 2019.

In a statement, St. Mary’s Prep said: “The administration conducted an investigation immediately upon learning of these accusations, which was overseen by a member of our Board. We are confident once this information is made public, it will prove the school acted in a completely appropriate manner.”

Palmer says that when the son’s father complained of the incident, he was fired from his teaching position at the high school.

“It’s kind of ironic that the individual who was assaulted is the son of the teacher -- they’re both there,” Palmer said. “It’s an interesting case because they were both impacted greatly by this set of events.”

Stephen Gross, the Board of Regents Chair for Orchard Lake Schools, responded:

“While it would be inappropriate to comment on the dismissal of any employee, there are multiple false allegations made in this lawsuit. We plan to present the truth in court.”

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About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.