Mater Dei, Diocese of Orange won’t release report on school’s athletic culture

Mater Dei High School and the Diocese of Orange will not release the results of a more than year-long investigation into the school’s athletic culture despite two different school presidents previously saying they would make those findings available to the public and media, the Orange County Register has learned.

The investigation, authorized by then Mater Dei president Father Walter Jenkins in November 2021, was prompted by a series of reports by the Register detailing allegations of assaults, hazing, sexual harassment, racial slurs, and vandalism by Mater Dei athletes. The Register also reported that then Monarchs head football coach Bruce Rollinson, principal Frances Clare and other Mater Dei coaches, officials and employees were aware of inappropriate behavior by athletes but either ignored it or failed to take effective action.

Mater Dei has competed at the highest levels in the country in high school football under Rollinson, who retired after the 2022 season.

“The climate assessment has been completed, and we have provided an overview of the report to the Mater Dei High School community,” Mater Dei spokesperson Allison Bergeron wrote in an email to the Register in response to repeated emails and telephone calls asking if the school and diocese would release the findings of the investigation. “We will use the climate assessment, along with our … accreditation report and other school-wide strategic plans, to strengthen the Mater Dei experience for all affiliated with the school.”

The statement and decision not to release the findings of the investigation conducted by Van Dermyden Makus, a Sacramento law firm, comes as Mater Dei is finalizing a settlement in a lawsuit against the school and diocese resulting from an alleged February 2021 hazing incident between two football players that left one of the players with a traumatic brain injury, a broken nose and other head injuries, according to a person familiar with the case.

Attorneys for the alleged victim did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Mater Dei’s decision not to release the findings also follows 15 months of mounting criticism that the school prioritizes athletic success over student safety and has continued a decades-long practice of covering up inappropriate behavior from administrators, teachers, coaches and athletes ranging from assault and hazing to sexual assault.

Mater Dei is currently named in at least nine ongoing lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by school employees.

“This is right out of the Larry Nassar playbook and it’s what the bishops do and have been doing for many years which is promise transparency, act like you’re doing the right thing and at the end of the day, do what they always do which is cover it up and stonewall and hope it just goes away,” said John Manly, a Mater Dei graduate and Orange County attorney who has been involved in litigation against the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 1997. He also represented more than 100 women who were sexually assaulted by former U.S. Olympic and USA Gymnastics national team physician Larry Nassar.

“I’ve never seen an organization so interested in money and less interested in the safety of children. They make USA Gymnastics look enlightened.

“If you expect these people to tell you the truth, they’re never going to. Their stock and trade is lies. And the thing that is infuriating about it is the hypocrisy of it. They will tell people, they will give instructions to people as to the most intimate details of their lives, including who you sleep with, what you do, thou shall not lie, and then at the same time go out and violate practically every commandment in scripture and then act like they’re above the law. Frankly, they’re above the law because they have a lot of power.”

Jenkins told the Register in November 2021 that the investigation’s findings would be made public. Jenkins resigned under pressure five weeks later.

“I can’t speak for Father Jenkins, but my commitment was to receive input about the assessment, review it with the Diocese and have it serve as a tool for promoting a safe environment for all students and staff,” Mater Dei President Mike Brennan said Wednesday, by email. “That is what we have done and will continue to do.”

But Brennan and Bergeron told the Register last February that it was Mater Dei’s intent that the assessment would be released to the media and public in full. That would require approval from the Diocese of Orange.

At the time Brennan characterized the investigation as an “assessment.”

“What I will do is contact the Diocese to see exactly how the Diocese would like me to handle that,” Brennan said.

The diocese said on Wednesday it agreed with Mater Dei’s decision not to release the findings.

“The Diocese supports the approach taken by the Mater Dei High School administration regarding its assessment,” the diocese said in a statement emailed to the Register. “We are pleased with the overall positive results of the assessment, recognize there is room for improvement and support the Mater Dei High School administration’s drive to constantly improve the Catholic educational experience of all students.”

Brennan in a letter to the “Mater Dei Community” last Friday said the “Climate assessment” was “complete”

“The information … will be used to continue our Catholic mission of providing a faith-filled, safe, and welcoming environment for all students,” Brennan wrote in the letter. “The results of the cultural assessment were overwhelmingly positive. …

“While the results were quite positive, we will always look for ways to improve the school climate and promote safety of all students. This is why we added key positions (campus ministry and faith formation, school safety, deans’ office, athletics, and IT departments) at the beginning of the school year.”

Joelle Casteix, a Mater Dei alum and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, said she is not surprised by the school and diocese’s decision. Casteix was sexually abused at the age of 15 by her Mater Dei choir teacher in the 1980s. In 2005, Casteix won a $1.6 million settlement after documents released by court order confirmed her account of molestation over a two-year period and how school administrators had knowledge of abuse but did nothing to stop it.

“Honestly, considering how they’ve handled themselves until now, did we expect anything different? No?” Casteix, said. “It goes back to the culture of secrecy, the insular culture of protecting the institution.”

Manly called on the Orange County district attorney’s office to subpoena the findings.

“At this point, it is my hope that the DA would demand the report by a subpoena or search warrant but I can tell you my speculation is that this report was done by a law firm and the next thing they’re going to do is exert attorney-client privilege,” Manly said. “Which is precisely what the U.S. Olympic Committee investigators did in the Nassar case and what the church always does. And it’s a shell game designed to deflect the bad press but the net result is that children are less safe. I would hope that parents considering sending their kids to Mater Dei or any diocese high school need to understand is that while there’s a good chance nothing will happen to them, if it does you’re never going to get the truth and it places kids at risk.”

Jenkins commissioned a law firm to conduct an investigation into the safety practices of its athletic programs in the wake of an alleged February 2021 hazing incident with the school’s football program that attracted national attention.

Jenkins at the time also said he was creating a task force to review “how athletics is engaged” at the school after Register reporting raised questions about Mater Dei head football coach Rollinson and the school’s handling of the incident.

Jenkins told members of the Mater Dei community and the Register that he would also hold meetings with students about their experience and hold “town hall” style meetings with parents during the Spring 2022 semester.

Jenkins also told the Register that Mater Dei would not use attorney-client privilege to shield the results of the investigation.

Jenkins resigned under pressure on New Year’s Day 2022.

“You have thousands of children in the Diocese of Orange under their care and schools and what happened here is very serious,” Manly said. “You have a (president) here who actually was going to do the right thing and look what happened to him. They basically ecclesiastically executed him.” 

Bergeron has declined to directly respond on multiple occasions on whether the measures Jenkins said the school would take actually took place. Brennan has declined repeated requests over the past six months to address the same topic as well as allegations of inappropriate behavior by Mater Dei coaches ranging from bullying and hazing to revealing students’ confidential medical and mental health information to sexual assault.

“If the assessment truly was glowing then why aren’t they sharing it?” Casteix said. “You would think they would want to trumpet their achievements. If I were a parent I would demand to see that because I want a school where my child attends to show me a track record of safety and improvement.

“I knew we’d never see it. We’d only see it if it was glowing and then we’d have other questions.

“When Jenkins was pushed out, I knew he was actually kind of doing a good job. And now that he is out this assessment will never see the light of day.”

A Register report in November 2021 detailed how a Mater Dei football player punched a teammate, 50 pounds lighter than him, three times in the face during an alleged hazing ritual called “Bodies” on Feb. 4, 2021, while other Monarchs players shouted racial epithets at the smaller player, according to two videos of the altercation obtained by the Register.

The Santa Ana Police Department recommended the larger player be prosecuted for felony battery, according to a police report. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not intend to file charges in the case. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said the altercation does not meet the legal standards for criminal “hazing” or felony assault, but he is willing to consider additional evidence.

“If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played Bodies or Slappies, I’d be a millionaire,” Rollinson told the injured player’s father the day after the altercation, according to a court filing.

Mater Dei officials initially declined to cooperate with Santa Ana Police Department investigators, according to police reports. Rollinson and Kevin Kiernan, the school’s athletic director, did not agree to be interviewed by a Santa Ana Police Department investigator until April 21, 2021, more than two months after the altercation and when the Santa Ana PD first requested information from the school, and only with Mater Dei assistant principal for student services Miguel Gutierrez present, according to police reports.

Rollinson during the police interview denied hazing existed in the Mater Dei program. He added that the interview was the first time he had heard of the Bodies game. But in a sworn deposition last year, former Mater Dei athletic director Amanda Waters said when she confronted Rollinson about the incident the coach “said if I had a dollar for every time these kids played bodies, I’d be a millionaire.”

“So he didn’t say a hundred, he said a dollar–if I had a dollar for every time,” Waters continued.

Waters, according to a transcript of the deposition, also said the Mater Dei official overseeing the football program ordered her not to discuss or ask questions about the February 2021 hazing incident.

Waters said then-assistant principal Geri Campeau was “very angry” the morning after the altercation that Waters had asked Rollinson about the incident and that she was never to talk about the event or the alleged victim “ever again anymore.”

“Everything from the initial (moment) when (the injured player) walked out of the locker room to the silence after was handled wrong, in my opinion,” Waters said, according to the transcript.

Rollinson announced his retirement in November just weeks after telling the Register he intended to coach in the 2023 season.

Should Mater Dei and the diocese not settle the lawsuit, Rollinson, Campeau, Clare and trainer Kevin Anderson would likely be ordered to submit to depositions under oath.

The Register also reported that Chase Hall, a Mater Dei basketball player, allegedly was attacked and beaten by two Mater Dei football players as he left a gathering in Irvine shortly after midnight on May 5, 2019, according to police reports.

Hall’s jaw was broken during the altercation and he will require additional surgery.

“I’ll never forget what the surgeon said,” Mary Hall, Chase’s mother told the Register while discussing the punch that broke her son’s jaw. “He said if it had been a quarter-inch higher, he would be dead.”

An Irvine Police Department investigator recommended that the two Mater Dei players be charged with aggravated battery and they along with a classmate, who police allege orchestrated the beating, be charged with criminal conspiracy. The two players were given probation, according to Mary Hall.

The Santa Ana Police Department confirmed in April, 2022, that it was investigating allegations of assault and hazing with the Monarch boys water polo team. The case was eventually referred to Orange County Juvenile Court, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation. One of the alleged perpetrators was removed from the Mater Dei team, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Mater Dei boys water polo head coach Brian Anderson was forced out on Nov. 11, 2022, following an investigation by the diocese into allegations that Anderson routinely bullied players, including players with learning disabilities and other medical conditions, according to confidential documents and other material obtained by the Register.

Monarchs girls water polo head coach Brian McSweeny resigned under pressure in December of 2022 after admitting that he lied about the reason he missed coaching the team during a tournament. McSweeny initially told the team that he was so ill that he sought treatment from urgent care. He later admitted that he had in fact skipped the tournament to attend a friend’s wedding in Mexico after players and their parents saw photos of him on social media at the event.

Reporter Tony Saavedra contributed to this story.

Source link

Related posts

Hampton-Dumont/CAL vs West Delaware Live Stream How To Watch Hampton-Dumont/CAL vs West Delaware Football

School Sports

Lake Arthur vs Lafayette Christian Academy LiveStream How To Watch Lake Arthur vs Lafayette Christian Academy Football

School Sports

2023 PFN Player Profile: Getting to Know Mt. Carmel TE/WR/OLB Jacob Schultz

School Sports

Leave a Comment