SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A prestigious San Francisco Catholic school was slapped with a lawsuit accusing it over failing to protect students from an alleged pedophile.
Peter Devine was a popular theater teacher at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in the 1990’s. Devine worked at the Catholic Jesuit high school for four decades in its drama and English departments, his LinkedIn page shows.
A San Francisco man reported that he was a freshman student at St. Ignatius in 1996 when Devine sexually assaulted him, according to a lawsuit filed in court last week.
The first incident involving Devine allegedly happened when the student approached Devine inside the school’s theater and asked about acting in school play. At the time, the student was 14 years old and had dreams of becoming an actor.
Attorney Timothy Hale wrote, “At the conclusion of the discussions, the perpetrator and (student) hugged. The perpetrator prolonged the hug then put his hands on (the student’s) shoulders and said something to the effect of, ‘We’re men and men can kiss on the lips. Isn’t that right?’ The perpetrator then aggressively kissed (the student.) Plaintiff was shocked and froze as the kiss continued. Perpetrator then said ‘See, that’s okay, isn’t it?'”
The student said he left Bannan Theater feeling terrified, and he actively tried to avoid Devine for the rest of his high school experience.
During his years at St. Ignatius, the student felt as though he had “a monster chasing him around campus,” an investigator wrote in a report obtained by KRON4.
The student was required to take one class his senior year taught by Devine. The teacher sexually assaulted the student during the class, the lawsuit states. The student said he was so afraid of being around Devine, he never participated in any of the school plays.
St. Ignatius school has “a policy of secrecy that has created a culture of hidden sexual abuse to which Plaintiff and many other children have fallen victim. The secrecy and abuse continue,” Hale wrote.
Devine continued to go backstage with students until at least 2021, and remained as a teacher at SI until he retired in 2022, according to the lawsuit.
In 2022, the school hired an investigator to look into Devine’s “inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature.” The investigator interviewed the teacher and witnesses, and ultimately concluded that Devine was not truthful during his interview.
“Devine was found not credible. He had a motive to lie and made inconsistent statements,” the investigator wrote.
The alleged victim, who is now 41-years-old, continues to suffer from emotional and psychological issues, his attorneys wrote. The lawsuit claims that there is evidence Devine sexually abused other students at SI as well.
In the mid-2000’s, a staff member allegedly saw Devine pin a male student against a wall backstage at Bannan Theater using a “sexually intimidating posture,” the lawsuit states.
The staff member described the student as looking “terrified and trapped. The boy had no place to go as Devine had pressed his arms against his head so that the boy could not move his head from side to side or move backward because his head was pressed against the wall. When Devine realized he was being observed, he immediately stepped away from the boy, appeared embarrassed and annoyed, and walked away,” Hale wrote.
The staff member reported the incident to a supervisor. The supervisor alerted the school principal. The principal said Devine was banned from going backstage at Bannan Theater with students, however, Devine never followed the rule, and administrators did nothing to enforce it, the lawsuit claims.
The school is operated by Jesuits West Province, a Catholic organization based in Los Gatos. SI’s website states that its mission is to continue “a tradition of forward-looking education, with Catholic and Jesuit values at its core.”