School sued by former student over alleged abuse
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former student who says he was sexually abused by a teacher at Shattuck-St. Mary's sued the southern Minnesota prep school on Monday, claiming some administrators received reports about “naked dance parties” and other inappropriate sexual conduct with students, but did nothing about it and allowed him to continue teaching.
The lawsuit, filed in Rice County, claims the school knew or should have known former drama teacher Lynn Seibel, 71, was a danger and “child molester” yet negligently believed he was fit to work with students. The lawsuit also alleges the school breached its duty to provide a safe environment for students by exposing them to “an unfit agent with dangerous and exploitive sexual propensities.”
The lawsuit, filed under a new law that expands the statute of limitations for lawsuits filed by victims of child sex abuse, seeks damages for pain and distress.
In a statement Monday, the school said the accusations are unfounded and misdirected. The school also said it empathizes with the man, who claims he was abused when he was a teen and is not listed in the lawsuit by name.
“He can be assured that, while we disagree with him on the merits of this lawsuit, we stand with him in wanting to see the facts of those allegations determined and justice done,” the school said. Shattuck-St. Mary's is a college preparatory boarding school for students in the sixth through 12th grades.
Seibel, a professional actor and director, was a drama teacher and live-in “dorm parent” at Shattuck-St. Mary's from 1992 to 2003, when he left after child pornography was found on his computer. Police apparently were not told about that incident, and he wasn't charged.
But last October, he was charged with 17 counts, including second-degree criminal sexual conduct, alleging that he abused six male students, ages 15 to 18, between 1996 and 2003. In a jailhouse interview in March, Seibel told Minnesota Public Radio News that he is innocent, and wants to return to acting in California.
Seibel's attorney did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The plaintiff in Monday's lawsuit claims he was abused by Seibel between 2000 and 2003.
While the nature of the abuse against this particular student isn't clear, the lawsuit outlines some of Seibel's alleged conduct. It claims that from 1996 to 2003, Seibel taught “AP Drama” classes, in which he brought groups of boys into an on-campus dorm room to watch pornography and masturbate.
Once a semester, Seibel also organized “naked dance parties” in the dormitory showers, in which he would dim the lights, turn on disco lights, and watch the boys shower, the lawsuit said. And, it claims, he measured their genitals, and entered the showers so often that the boys would bet on how long it would take before he appeared once the water was running.
The lawsuit claims that in the fall of 2000, another teacher at Shattuck-St. Mary's encountered naked boys in the hall, and the boys told him about the dance party. The teacher allegedly saw Seibel in the shower and reported it to the headmaster and two administrators, who didn't investigate or report it to authorities, the lawsuit said.
The school said Monday that it appears this student is not among those named in the ongoing criminal case, and the school has no record that he reported any incidents of misconduct.
When Seibel was initially charged, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said the school may have had information about inappropriate contact, but apparently didn't notify authorities. At the time, the school said it investigated allegations in 2001, and told authorities, who did not take action.