Diocese Blamed for Worker’s Assault of Girl

     (CN) — A Lee County, Florida, couple claim in court that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice negligently hired a maintenance worker who sexually abused their child.
     The Catholic school — St. Francis Xavier School — is run by the Diocese of Venice, which is responsible for the education of a total of 4,319 students in 10 schools.
     In a complaint filed in the Lee County Circuit Court, the couple, identified as John and Jane Doe, claim the diocese was aware of sexual misconduct in the employee’s past, but retained him anyway, allowing him to supervise children in the hallways and bus line.
     “The maintenance employee’s position with the Diocese of Venice enabled him to have close and intimate contact with children at St. Francis Xavier School,” the complaint says.
     The couple claims that during the 2015-2016 school year the employee befriended and molested their daughter, minor doe, and that as a result, she suffered “great main of mind and body, continuing anger, depression, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace and loss of enjoyment of life.”
     The couple seeks more than $15,000 in damages on counts of vicarious liability for sexual assaults, negligent supervision and breach of fiduciary duty.
     They represented by Michael Beckman of Viles & Beckman L.L.C. in Fort Myers, Florida.
     Beckman did not respond to a request for comment.
     Susan Laielli, the director of communications at the Diocese of Venice, said that until the diocese is officially served, she had no comment, but on Friday it issued a lengthy written statement.
     “With unwavering commitment the Diocese of Venice in Florida seeks to ensure the safety and protection of all who are served by its Churches and Catholic Schools. Whenever an allegation of abuse of a minor is brought forward, all Diocesan personnel are instructed to report the alleged abuse to the Florida Department of Children and Families,” it said.
     In continued: “A parent of a child at St. Francis Xavier School has notified a staff member of a potential case of abuse. The staff member promptly notified DCF which initiated an investigation, and the employee was suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. DCF conducted a complete examination of the facts with the full cooperation of the Diocese and the School.
     “Following the examination, DCF notified the School and the Diocese in writing that the investigation, ‘had been completed and closed, with no indication of abuse, neglect or exploitation.’ The lay employee was then allowed to return to work. Despite the DCF findings, the Diocese of Venice was recently made aware of a newly filed lawsuit arising out of this matter. No formal legal papers have been served at this time, but the Diocese and the School welcomes the opportunity to respond with the complete and accurate explanation of events,” the diocese said.

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