New Jersey Catholic High School Accused of Covering Up Wrestling Program’s Sexual and Verbal Abuse

Bergen Catholic wrestling coach Dave Bell watches the 182-pound final bout during the NJSIAA state wrestling championships in Atlantic City, NJ on Sunday, March 4, 2018. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/Northjersey.com)

A former wrestler has sued his Catholic high school, claiming the New Jersey school and church officials conspired to cover up sexual and verbal abuse in its nationally recognized wrestling program, CBS New York reports. The suit filed Monday alleges Bergen Catholic High School wrestling coaches shared pornographic images with team members, watched wrestlers strip naked and sent athletes inappropriate text messages.

The lawsuit also claims school and Archdiocese of Newark officials worked to shield the coaches.

In a statement, Brother Brian Walsh, who is president of the school in Oradell, said the suit was “based on allegations that are unfounded, frivolous and untrue.” He said the school would vigorously defend itself.

School and archdiocese officials say they reported the abuse allegations to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office when they learned about them.

In 2016, Bergen Catholic High School reached a nearly $2 million settlement with 21 alleged sex abuse victims, all who were former students at the private school. At the time, the alleged abuse cases spanned a 15-year period.

The lawsuit filed Monday does not name the plaintiff, but alleges the incidents took place from September 2015 through January 2018.

SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press