Five more former Catlin Gabel students filed lawsuits Tuesday against the school. They claim sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of teachers, one of whom is still employed by the school.
One of the cases presents a new allegation for the school — one of psychological and physical abuse.
In 1994, Sarah Jones was finishing eigh th grade at Catlin Gabel, a private school in Southwest Portland. Families, staff and the whole eighth grade class were there for a graduation ceremony.
And instead of commenting on her academic or extracurricular achievements, Jones said art teacher Dale Rawls shamed her by saying she “dated her way through the eighth grade.”
Jones says Rawls then gave her an award — a pair of toy lips.
“Many teachers at Catlin helped me find my voice, but others took it away. Today I stand up for myself and I take back my voice,” Jones said. “I have been clothed in shame and embarrassment for over 20 years and it has dramatically affected my life. It is time this stops.”
Jones is seeking $750,000 in damages for the incident and another allegation of physical abuse by a former Catlin teacher.
The complaint goes beyond the initial scope of an investigation Catlin Gabel launched in 2018. When the school’s board of trustees retained attorney and investigator Lori Watson, they asked her to investigate sexual misconduct allegations. Catlin Gabel published a summary of the findings from the investigation in December.
The attorneys representing Jones and the four other students said that was a mistake.
“I think the allegations in [Jones’] complaint show the breadth of the types of abuse that occurred at Catlin Gabel and that have since gone unaddressed by the Catlin Gabel community because they were not covered in the report that Catlin Gabel issued,” said Ashley Vaughn, the attorney representing Jones.
Unlike every other employee or accusation included in the report or lawsuits filed since the report, the teacher that allegedly abused Jones is still employed at the school.
Catlin Gabel said Rawls has been placed on administrative leave “while we look into this matter.” The school said it was unable to respond further to the lawsuits filed Tuesday.
This is the third round of lawsuits filed by former students against the school. Dumas and Vaughn are also representing Kim Wilson, who was a student in the ‘90s and alleged abuse by Richardson Shoemaker. He was a former math teacher named in Watson’s investigation who died in 2018.
Crew Janci LLP are representing several other students alleging abuse by four former teachers, three of whom were named in Watson’s report.
The five students who filed lawsuits Tuesday are seeking a combined total of $11,850,000 in damages.
In addition to Jones, the latest round of lawsuits includes a student who complained about Shoemaker and was in Shoemaker’s class in 2001, the year he was forced into retirement. She claims she went to administrators at the school to report Shoemaker’s behavior. She said she and her classmates were told to confront Shoemaker themselves.
The former student, referred to in court filings as Mary Doe 3, returned to Catlin as a staff member as an adult. She wanted to change the school from the inside.
“I thought that I could help improve some of the things that were happening culturally so that other students wouldn’t have to experience the type of things I did,” Mary Doe 3 said.
But she alleged Shoemaker continued to approach her at alumni events.
“He would approach her again, he would single her out, put her hands on her shoulders, and try to interact with her again which was very triggering for her and painful considering she understood that he was supposed to be banned from campus,” Vaughn said.
Another former student, referred to in court filings as Mary Doe 1, alleges a relationship with teacher Fred Corbett.
Corbett was not named in the report, but one of the lawsuits filed Tuesday says he’s the teacher referred to as “Employee 2.” Mary Doe 1 spoke to Catlin’s hired investigator, but she claims the investigator inaccurately represented her allegations against Corbett and didn’t ask any follow-up questions.
“I kind of felt like, here at last, ‘I’m going to get this taken care of, I’m going to power through reporting this,’” Mary Doe 1 said. “And it was wrong what they reported. And then they didn’t report his name.”
In the complaint filed in Multnomah County circuit court, Mary Doe 1 alleges that when she was between 12 and 14 years old, Corbett frequently abused her emotionally and sexually. Mary Doe 1 claims multiple incidents with Corbett that involved kissing and oral sex. According to the complaint, he suggested she start taking birth control pills so they could “go further.”
Lori Watson, the investigator hired by Catlin Gabel to look into claims of sexual abuse, contacted Corbett. “The employee denied engaging in any sexual misconduct and told her he left Catlin Gabel of his own accord and not due to any concerns about his conduct,” according to the report.
According to the report, Catlin Gabel has no records documenting misconduct or the reason for Corbett’s departure.
Mary Doe 1 is suing Catlin Gabel School for $6 million.