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Spotlight Report

School 'help line' to aid abuse victims

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 3/14/2002

Boston College High School has set up a toll-free ''help line'' staffed by trained social workers as part of an effort to reach out to alumni who might have been molested by Jesuits at the all-boys school.

After disclosures last week that several Jesuits assigned to the school in the 1970s and 1980s allegedly abused some students, the school is also sending letters this week to its 13,000 alumni.

The letter, from Robert W. Howe, the chairman of the school's board of trustees, assures graduates that BC High is eager to get at the truth behind the allegations, assist victims, and ''bring healing to this painful period of our history.''

Howe also urges graduates who want to speak confidentially about the issue to call the toll-free number (800) 245-4348.

Last week, the names of four Jesuits and one former Jesuit who taught at the prestigious 139-year-old school were turned over to Suffolk County prosecutors because there was at least one allegation of sexual molestation against each of the five.

Earlier last week, the Globe reported details of allegations, made by former students in interviews, against three of the five: the Revs. James F. Talbot, Francis J. McManus, and Stephen F. Dawber. The alleged sexual misconduct occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Also turned over to prosecutors were the names of the Rev. Michael J. Kossak, who left the school in 1989 after just one year, and John H. Acres, 63, who has since left the Jesuit order.

At least 15 to 20 alleged victims of Talbot have now come forward, according to a count of graduates who have contacted the Globe, several attorneys, and school officials.

Dawber, who had returned to teach at the school a decade ago, was immediately suspended by William T. Kemeza, the school's principal and acting president. McManus, who had been a chaplain in recent years at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, was placed on administrative leave by the Society of Jesus.

Talbot was removed as a teacher at another Jesuit preparatory school, Cheverus High in Portland, Maine, after a 1998 accusation in a lawsuit that he molested a student there in the 1980s. The suit was subsequently settled.

Talbot was transferred from BC High to Cheverus in 1980, and correspondence from 1979 and 1980 suggests that it was his inappropriate behavior that prompted the move. Talbot, who was also the soccer coach, often had small groups of students wrestling, sometimes clad only in athletic supporters.

In interviews, several of the former students described one-on-one wrestling sessions in which Talbot, sometimes forcibly, molested them.

This story ran on page A21 of the Boston Globe on 3/14/2002.
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