Diocese responds to lawsuit against Bishop England, says it has ‘no merit’

Attorneys have filed a $300 million class-action lawsuit against Bishop England High School and the Diocese of Charleston. (File photo)

CHARLESTON—A class action lawsuit seeking $300 million has been filed against the Diocese of Charleston, Bishop England High School and others.

Attorney Lawrence Richter told Charleston’s WCSC-TV that he is part of a group of attorneys who have filed the lawsuit on behalf of students who might have been viewed without their knowledge while using the school’s locker rooms. Richter cited the 2019 arrest of a former Bishop England employee.

Jeffrey Alan Scofield was arrested in May 2019 and charged with two counts of voyeurism after it was discovered that he had recorded video of male students in the Bishop England locker room. Scofield at the time was an employee in Bishop England’s athletic department.  The videos were discovered on an electronic device.

In June 2020, Scofield pleaded guilty to one count of voyeurism and the other charge was dropped. A judge sentenced Scofield to two years in prison but the sentence was suspended to 18 months’ probation. Scofield was required to undergo mental health treatment and to register as a sex offender.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the diocese said that after reviewing the lawsuit, “we feel that the class action claims have absolutely no merit.”

“The windows between the athletic coaches’ offices and the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms were included in the plans and installed in the building in the 1990s for safety reasons,” Maria Aselage, spokesperson for the diocese, said. “Their purpose was to allow coaches to monitor for fights, bullying, smoking or any type of inappropriate activity that might occur within the locker rooms. The plaintiff’s claims that the windows were installed for the sole purpose of exploiting students is simply ludicrous.”

The statement also stressed the fact that officials at Bishop England immediately contacted the police when they learned of Scofield videotaping male students in May 2019 and immediately terminated Scofield’s employment. The statement also said that soon after Scofield’s arrest, the windows in question were covered, subsequently removed and replaced with a block wall.

The statement also disputes claims made in the class action lawsuit regarding the diocese and the protection of children.

“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston takes protection of children very seriously,” Aselage said. “It mandates that every teacher, employee and volunteer who has regular access to children undergo a background screening, attend a child abuse prevention education program, and sign a code of conduct governing their interactions with minors. Additionally, Catholic school teachers and staff are required to attend boundary training.”