Mahdi Rezaei for Unsplash

Lawyers for nine men who brought a sexual abuse lawsuit against a private Catholic high school in Dallas say the involved parties have reached a settlement.

Named in the 2019-launched suit alongside the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and the Jesuits Southern Province, Jesuit College Preparatory School, which serves many Preston Hollow residents, has agreed to issue an apology and financially compensate victims as well as construct a memorial for them on campus.

Jesuit also has outlined other measures it is taking to protect today’s and future students.

According to a press release from Androvette Legal Marketing and Media, confidential financial compensation is part of the “resolution and reconciliation agreement,” but they add that “more emphasis is being placed on measures intended to embrace and empathize with past victims, acknowledge their pain, prevent future misconduct and continue measures in place to prevent future misconduct.”

Claims outlined in this suit date back to the 1980s and 1990s. While some of the claimants have remained anonymous, others — including former NBC 5 broadcaster Brendan Higgins and another former student Michael Pedevilla — have spoken out and made their identities known.

Higgins said in December that his abuser was the late Rev. Patrick Koch, a friend of his family and a longtime teacher at Jesuit.

Of note, Koch is only one among 31 clergy members named by the Dallas Catholic Diocese with so-called “credible allegations” of sexual abuse against minors. Wrote the Catholic Digest in 2019, “Bishop [Edward] Burns [Catholic Diocese] said that a ‘credible allegation’ is one that after review of reasonably available relevant information in consultation with the Diocesan Review Board or other professionals, there is reason to believe is true.”

Claimant Pedevilla says of this week’s settlement,  “All I really wanted was to be heard. Now, finally, I can begin to heal.”

As part of the resolution, Jesuit’s website will now list third-party contact information for anyone harboring concerns about the safety of the school community or any instance of sexual abuse. Those calls and concerns will go to Lee Taft, a former plaintiff’s litigator and Harvard Divinity School graduate who specializes in “helping parties heal through apology, forgiveness and reconciliation.” He has been guiding discussions among parties throughout this case.

Taft says that “even at bitter moments of legal conflict,” the former Jesuit students and the religious institutions they were suing seemed to believe that “something positive could be built” in the aftermath of the horrifying revelations.

“In these cases, it is often more about healing, ending isolation, and restoring community than it is about money,” says Mr. Taft, “I hope this resolution can serve as a template where the abused and religious organizations are seeking a productive path forward.”

Jesuit President Mike Earsing says he has spoken with each of the men in the suit, that he believes them and that he has communicated his sorrow and an apology.

Additional steps to be taken by the Diocese and school are outlined in this statement on behalf of the lawyers from Androvett Legal Media & Marketing.

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