Man sues teacher, school, alleging sex abuse as child Lawsuit seeks $15 million, also names church, state

March 06, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis man has filed a $15 million suit against a church school and former teacher of his, alleging the teacher sexually abused and beat him a decade ago.

Roland E. Proctor Jr., 18, of the 100 block of Rosecrest Drive charges that Richard Clement Offer periodically beat his bare buttocks with tree branches in a bathroom at the school operated by the House of Prayer Church in Shady Side.

The suit also says that during the early 1980s Mr. Proctor was "sexually touched, fondled and molested" by his teacher when the two spent the night at the home of Mr. Offer's father.

The suit, filed late Monday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, seeks $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages on several claims, including battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

It names as defendants Mr. Offer; his father, the Rev. Richard M. Offer, who owns and operates the school; the House Of Prayer Church Inc. in the 1400 block of Snug Harbor Road; and the Maryland Department of Education, for licensing the school.

Mr. Offer was unavailable yesterday, and his father refused to comment. It was unclear yesterday whether the younger Mr. Offer still is teaching.

State officials also were unavailable to comment because of the Election Day holiday.

H. Richard Duden III, Mr. Proctor's attorney, said his client reported the incident to police shortly before the suit was filed.

No charges have been filed, but police are investigating the allegations, Mr. Duden said.

Mr. Proctor did not report it to the police until now because "he was embarrassed and ashamed and afraid," Mr. Duden said.

There is no indication the elder Mr. Offer knew of the sexual abuse, he said. The plaintiff's parents also did not know about it until recently when Mr. Proctor reported it to the police, Mr. Duden said.

Mr. Duden said the "switchings" with the tree branch were a routine part of discipline process at the state-licensed school, and other students also were beaten. But he said Mr. Proctor was singled out about one to three times a week while he was a second- and third-grader.

He said the Proctor youth usually was subjected to beatings for "talking out in class, giggling and that sort of thing."

"This is just appalling conduct," said Mr. Duden, a former county prosecutor.

He said Mr. Proctor's parents were members of the church and aware of the corporal punishment, but not the extent of it.

"It's apparently a spare the rod and spoil the child philosophy in that church," Mr. Duden said.

Mr. Proctor's parents took him out of the school in the spring of 1984, after a severe beating was administered to the youth's bare buttocks, legs, arms, chest and genitals, according to the suit.

The beating left the boy hardly able to walk and "bleeding in several places," the suit says.

Mr. Duden said that as a result of the ordeal, Mr. Proctor never finished high school, is struggling to earn his high school equivalency diploma and has not held a steady job.

"He's had problems with his education ever since," Mr. Duden said. "In a lot of ways, he's trying to cope with what happened to him."

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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