A former student at Bergen Catholic High School has file a lawsuit against the school, accusing them of covering up sexual and verbal abuse in its wrestling program.
According to the lawsuit, wrestling coaches David Bell and Dominick Spataro shared pornographic images with the wrestlers, watched them get naked and send them sexually inappropriate text messages. Bell allegedly told the plaintiff that he was shredded and texted and emailed “that he loved him, as well as other highly inappropriate and sexual predatory behavior on a minor child.”
The lawsuit also alleges the school and Archdiocese of Newark officials tried to protect the coaches. When they found out about the allegations of abuse, the administrators at Bergen Catholic “chose to sweep serious allegations of harassment, intimidation, bullying and even sexual abuse of a minor under the rug.”
The plaintiff’s parents spoke to the school’s principal, Timothy McElhinney and expressed their concerns about a former wrestling coach being able to get access to the wrestling room despite being let go for alleged bullying in 2016. The parents said that Bell allowed Spataro and the former coach to harass their son.
The wrestler’s father sent a certified letter to the school’s president brother Brian Walsh on Jan. 29 and demanded an update regarding his concerns about the ongoing harassment and bullying. The following day, Walsh said in an email to the parents that he started the investigation by talking to Bell.
When the parents continued to press the matter, Walsh allegedly ignored the bullying complaint and told them that enough is enough. He then told them that their son wasn’t on the wrestling team anymore.
The parents transferred their son to another school and claimed that the defendants retaliated against him by making untrue statements in an attempt to deprive him of receiving a Christian education.
There are several people who don’t believe allegations and have expressed their support for the coaches.
“I know David Bell well. He’s the nicest person I’ve met in my entire life,” said 21-year-old JP Ascolese, who is now a wrestler at Columbia University. “He helped get me recruited to college.”
Mike Maye, a parent of one of the students who graduated from Bergen Catholic High School, said that the plaintiff would have called the police if the abuse actually happened.
“If it was true, it would have been a crime. He either wants money or it’s sour grapes because he could not make the wrestling team.”
The lawsuit was officially served to the school on Monday.