Bay Ridge

Poly Prep sued again for allegedly covering up sexual assault

November 19, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
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Poly Prep Country Day School is being sued again for past instances of sexual abuse by a student who claims that the school protected his abuser, a priest and former teacher.

The Bay Ridge private school previously settled a major lawsuit brought against it in 2012. The multi-million dollar claim, filed in 2009 in the Eastern District of New York, was against football coach Philip Foglietta. The former coach was accused of groping and raping boys on campus and on trips while administrators allegedly turned a blind eye.

The new suit accuses the school of covering up the actions of John Miller, a now deceased Episcopal priest who taught humanities and Latin at Poly Prep. A former student, now older than 60, claims Miller repeatedly assaulted him between the ages of 15 and 17.

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The suit, brought under the Child Victims Act, was filed in Kings County Supreme Court by attorneys at the firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC. The Child Victims Act gives victims a one-year window to file for claims of sexual abuse that took place past the statute of limitations.

The lawyers say that the lawsuit is about holding the adults who could have protected the former student accountable for allowing the alleged abuse to go unchecked.

“This case is equally about the many adults in positions of power at Poly who were aware of, tolerated and covered up rampant sexual abuse at the school and who retaliated against students who were aware of such conduct, including [the student],” the complaint says. “These children, now men, bear the scars of Poly’s profound and knowing indifference to their victimization and suffering.”

The victim alleges that Miller asked him to stay after class one day during his junior year of high school. The priest pressed him up against a wall and sexually assaulted him, according to the complaint. The victim began to cry for fear that other students could see him, and Miller allegedly began licking his tears.

The victim said he did not report the abuse immediately because he was afraid of how his classmates would react. The suit alleges that the victim’s close friend had faced retaliation after reporting the abuse of Foglietta, and the victim feared he would receive similar treatment.

During the victim’s senior year, the suit claims, Miller continued the behavior of rubbing and groping him in class at least five or six times.

Later, the two went to the Yale Club for lunch and afterward Miller allegedly brought the student back to his upper Park Avenue apartment, where he made aggressive advances and tried to have oral sex with him.

“[Miller] told [the student] that St. Thomas was Jesus’s lover, and that such love was beautiful and divine, as distinguished from mere carnal love,” the suit says. “[The student] declined, made excuses and left the apartment. He was extremely disturbed by the incident.”

The victim claims in the lawsuit that he never told anyone about the abuse until 2008, when he found a website called “White Tower Healing” where other victims shared their stories of abuse.

The suit against Poly Prep alleges negligent hiring, inadequate security, assault, battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

“We care deeply about our alumni, and we are heartbroken that a student may have been a victim of abuse,” said Audrius Barzdukas, head of school at Poly Prep. “Over the past decade, we have taken steps and instituted best practices toward the goal of having our school be a model educational environment in terms of safety and abuse prevention. The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority.”

Update (3:30 p.m.): This story has been updated with a quote from Audrius Barzdukas, head of school at Poly Prep. 

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  1. who is this ? i want the name ? the kid did not go home and tell one of his parents !!! john miller was a very good teacher , he’s not here to defend himself ; this case sounds like total bs to me ………but it will be a nice payday for the accuser and the law firm …… the school will settle out of court

    • KleverNickname

      Your reaction mirrors so many reactions from when the Foglietta stories first broke: “He was a very good coach. He’s not here to defend himself.” Being a good teacher does not preclude one from being a bad person, monster, pederast. The case sounded like “total bs” to everyone who knew Foglietta but it turns out they were the ones he didn’t rape. To those of us who know/knew his victims, it wasn’t bs. It was very real, easily believed and ultimately proven to be true.Try to understand the psycho-sexual impact of being a victim. One does not always run home and tell parents. Shame almost always outweighs the impulse to confide in other adults, especially since another, trusted adult was the abuser. In this case, the accused abuser was alleged to have groomed the victim by invoking images of Jesus and St. Thomas being lovers. That is manipulation of the highest order. Calling out for the accuser’s name is futile and belies a prejudicial sense of retaliatory spite. And implying that this is going to be anything like a “nice payday” for the accuser is ludicrous on its face. The term “payday” is reserved for remuneration for services rendered. Do you honestly feel the victim of sexual assaults that happened more than 40 years ago sees this as he is submitting an invoice? Assuming he is truthful, and with a cast of characters like Foglietta, Parker, Harlan, Anderson, etc. the chances are strong, this victim has probably experienced a lifetime of anguish, guilt, shame, blame and worse. What kind of “payday” does it have to be for this victim to feel like it’s all good now? Do you know anything about this institution? Were you ever a student there? I was and so were other members of my family. We saw the abusers grooming their prey and we saw the school’s leadership look the other way because the abusers had value in the school, were responsible for recruiting athletes and scholars. We know from specific examples that Poly Prep was a breeding ground for predatory pederasts and willfully ignorant leaders. Perhaps you are prejudiced into believing this sort of complaint is a scam because you have seen such scams elsewhere. Well I am prejudiced into believing this specific complaint is likely to be true because I have seen such atrocities before, right here, in this very institution.