KSLA Investigates: New details about expulsion at St. Mark's

KSLA Investigates: New details about expulsion at St. Mark's

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Defamation. Disparate treatment. Intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Those are some of the claims levied against St. Mark's Cathedral School in Shreveport in one mother's federal lawsuit.

The petition details how her son, identified as M.R., was expelled from the school in October 2014.

His dismissal or withdrawal certificate states that he was expelled for "inappropriate touching of other students when not in the presence of adults" while on a school field trip.

According to her lawsuit, weeks of therapy with local psychologists cleared M.R. of any sexually deviant behavior.

The mother, whom KSLA is not naming or showing to protect her son's identity, is suing St. Mark's Cathedral School and its head of school, Dr. Christopher Carter, for unspecified monetary damages.

She told KSLA News 12 she also wants her son to be re-enrolled in the school and to ensure nothing like this happens again.

"Because this needs to be heard," she said back in April. "There may be other children or people affected."

She denies her son would do what he's accused of doing. She also wants to know that if it was true, then why didn't Carter follow Louisiana's Mandatory Reporter Law and report it to authorities?

"By the law, if you even suspected that, first and foremost, you have to report it."

The Shreveport Police Department and Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office reported having never received a report from St. Mark's Cathedral School St. about M.R. or any alleged sexual abuse cases at the end of 2014.

Now new documentation uncovered by KSLA News 12 shows the incidents were, in fact, looked into.

A formal complaint of a Failure to Mandatory Report was filed against Carter in August 2015, 2 months before the mother filed her lawsuit.

In response to the complaint, a Shreveport police offense report states that Carter, as head of school, fits the description of a mandatory reporter. Both Shreveport police and the Caddo district attorney's office then investigated.

KSLA News 12 again called Carter asking why he did not report.

He referred us to his attorney, Jim McMichael, who sent KSLA News 12 an email response from Carter talking about the complaint. It states: "Both agencies concluded that there was no violation of any law and that Dr. Carter and St. Mark's were 'exceptionally cleared'."

The offense report states that a Shreveport police officer and Assistant District Attorney Ben Langford interviewed Carter 8 days after the complaint was filed.

In the report, Carter "acknowledged he had not made a mandatory report on this case."

It goes on to state that Carter "had not believed the incidents between the children (student on student) met the criteria for mandatory reporting."

What follows is the conclusion of the report's narrative supplement:

"When we asked about the belief the boy had either been sexually abused or had a definite lack of supervision, he confirmed that also. He advised that he was not certain that the boy was abused, but knew the sexual behavior could be indicative. He stated that he spoke to the mother about it. Carter advised there was apparently a similar incident that occurred in the Caddo schools. He sought advice on when to report if similar situations occurred again. Langford advised him those particular situations could be innocent, however Langford advised Carter to err on the side of caution. He further advised Dr. Carter would be protected from civil liability should he make a report in good faith. ADA Langford provided copies of the mandatory report laws to Dr. Carter."

The case then was "exceptionally closed" and cleared with no charge filed.

M.R.'s mother then filed her civil lawsuit in federal court.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:403 requires "Teaching or child care providers" to report suspected child sexual abuse and states that willfully failing to do so is a crime.

According to the Caddo district attorney's office, Langford resigned shortly after District Attorney James Stewart took office in December.

After a month of calls and voice mails, Stewart called KSLA News 12 back and said he couldn't comment on this because it was a decision made prior to his administration.

First Assistant District Attorney Laura Fulco sat down with KSLA News 12 to talk not specifically about this case but about the law itself and the cost of failing to report.

"It's a misdemeanor, so it's punishable at up to 6 months in jail with a $500 fine."

Failing to report becomes a felony when there is serious injury to the child, she added.

According to Fulco, mandatory reporter cases become criminal depending on the reporter's intent. "It is a knowing and willful failure to report which makes the behavior criminal.

"You can first find out, Number 1, if the person was trained. Is there any training that the person had so that they knew that they were a mandatory reporter?"

KSLA News 12 found out there is training required at St. Mark's Cathedral School. It's called "Safeguarding God's Children." Representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana said the program has been a requirement since 2012 and went online in October 2013. Refresher courses are mandatory every 3 years, they said.

The Rt. Rev. Jacob Owensby, the fourth bishop of Western Louisiana, confirmed for KSLA News 12 that all administrators and faculty and staff members serving in their schools are required to complete the training.

"The diocese requires the faculty, staff and administration serving in all our schools to be trained by and to adhere to the policies and procedures outlined in the Safeguarding God's Children program," Owensby told KSLA News 12 in a statement. "This program is used across the Episcopal Church to ensure the safety of the children in our schools and churches. Safeguarding principles include complete compliance with state law."

McMichael, Dr. Carter's attorney, confirmed to KSLA News 12 that his client has taken that specific training.

In a letter to KSLA News 12 on Tuesday, McMichael wrote this latest statement: "... There is no truth to the allegation that Dr. Carter or St. Mark's were under any duty to report sexual abuse in this instance nor was there any sexual abuse to report."

The letter also states how Carter and the school deny the claims of M.R.'s mother.

"Dr. Carter and St. Mark's absolutely deny all of her claims and believe the suit should and will be dismissed," McMichael wrote.

"What the person said when questioned as to why they didn't report would be something that you could look into," Fulco said.

No criminal charge has been filed in this case.

The mother's civil lawsuit in federal court is set for a 2017 court date.

This is the third part of KSLA News 12's investigative series into this incident at St. Mark's Cathedral School.

You can read Part 1 detailing more about the lawsuit here.

You also can read Part 2 about a state senator's call for a state investigation into the incident here.

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