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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Abuses Alleged at Children’s Home

CHICAGO (CN) - A man claims he was sexually abused as a sixth-grader at a Chicago area boarding school for low-income children where students were regularly disciplined by being beaten, forced to eat soap, and ordered to strip naked.

Sergio Cisneros sued Glenwood Academy and its former employee Thomas K. Brennan in Cook County Court.

In 1980, Cisneros was a sixth-grade student at Glenwood Academy, a Chicagoland private boarding school for boys from low income, single-parent homes, according to the complaint. Glenwood, pop. 8,500, is a far south suburb of Chicago.

Cisneros says he was warned by fellow students that employees and older students often used physical and sexual abuse as a form of discipline. Cisneros says he witnessed fellow students being beaten, forced to participate in gladiator matches with one another, and forced to strip naked while other students made fun of their genitals.

"In one particular incident, plaintiff was slammed face-first into the cement walkway by an older fellow student who wanted to settle a dispute, resulting in plaintiff having one tooth cracked in half and another tooth knocked completely out," he claims.

But when Cisneros complained to a counselor about the abuse, the counselor's "only response to plaintiff was that plaintiff and plaintiff's fellow students could be disciplined in any manner than Glenwood employees saw fit, as the students' parents had 'signed over rights' to Glenwood to use such discipline," according to the complaint.

Cisneros says that "on a warm and sunny day," he and another student were accused by their house parent LeAnn Walsh of using foul language.

Both boys were forced to eat an entire bar of soap; Cisneros says he could not finish his.

He "began to cry and pleaded not to continue. LeAnn Walsh then called disciplinarian Brennan, who arrived shortly thereafter with a small wooden bludgeon similar to a miniature baseball bat. While plaintiff remained standing and sobbing with tears on his face, Brennan was told of plaintiff's failure to complete his punishment with the soap. Brennan immediately then began striking plaintiff with the bludgeon all over plaintiff's body, especially his back. Plaintiff fell to the floor and repeatedly pleaded for Brennan to stop the assault as plaintiff tired to crawl under a couch in the living room of the cottage in vain. After the assault, plaintiff was sent by Brennan to go back to his dorm room.

"When plaintiff returned to his dorm room, Brennan arrived shortly thereafter. Brennan closed the door and began to talk to plaintiff about how to behave as Brennan closed the window drapes. As Brennan lectured, he unbuckled and lowered plaintiff's pants and underwear and began to 'inspect' and touch plaintiff's genitalia. Brennan teased plaintiff for having an uncircumcised penis. Brennan took plaintiff's penis and put it in Brennan's mouth in an attempt at fellatio. Brennan then put one of his fingers in his mouth, removed it, and inserted it into plaintiff's anus all while repeating that plaintiff had to 'behave and be a good boy.' Plaintiff did not protest or resist the sexual assault but remained as still as possible out of fear," the complaint states.

Brennan was convicted in 1994 of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child in Cisneros says in the lawsuit. He claims that he repressed memories of the abuse until spring of 1994, when the memories resurfaced. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative disorder and attempted suicide on multiple occasions, the complaint states.

Cisneros seeks damages for sexual abuse of a minor, negligent supervision, and reckless misconduct.

He is represented by Anthony Tomkiewicz in Aurora.

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