Four Roncalli High School football players are under investigation for allegedly forcing the team manager, who has Down syndrome, to suck another boy’s chest in the locker room before the team’s homecoming game.
That Sept. 27 incident was the second time in three weeks that Lesli Woodruff says her 15-year-old son Jack had been abused or harassed in that same locker room by football players.
IndyStar typically does not name sexual assault victims and is using only the boy’s first name to help protect his privacy. His last name is different from his mother’s.
“It feels very much like a betrayal from the school and from the Catholic Church,” Woodruff told IndyStar Tuesday.
Woodruff and her husband wanted the best for Jack. They enrolled him in Catholic schools five years ago because he could take classes there with typical students. The public school, she said, would have put Jack in segregated classes with other disabled kids.
Jack’s move as a freshman to Roncalli two years ago started out great, Woodruff said.
He loved football. He became a football team manager. He idolized the boys on the team, she said.
Woodruff thought the team members cared about Jack, too.
Archdiocese: Family demanded $150,000 to keep Roncalli assault claims out of media
“We absolutely felt like he was welcomed into that school community with open arms,” Woodruff said. “Until this happened I didn’t have any reason to believe otherwise.”
The family was having dinner on Sept. 9 when Jack blurted that “something ‘inappropriate’ happened at football practice,” Woodruff told IndyStar.
Another boy on the football team took video of Jack urinating and told Jack he was planning to post it on Snapchat, Woodruff said.
Woodruff emailed Jack’s teacher, who told Roncalli Dean of Students Tim Crissman.
In one of several letters and emails reviewed by IndyStar, Crissman emailed Woodruff the next day to say he investigated and confirmed the video was never posted on Snapchat.
The boy who took the video showed Crissman the file in his phone and together they deleted it. They then turned the device off and on to ensure it was gone, Crissman said in the email provided by Woodruff to IndyStar.
“The student responsible for the video was talked to,” Crissman said in the email. “We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the extremely poor decision making that went into the creation of (the) video. We came on very strong with the young man.”
Woodruff thought it was over. But on Sept. 18, Jack told her that the boy who took the video showed it to another football player. The video taker had insisted to Crissman that no one else saw the video, she said.
Woodruff met Crissman on Sept. 20. Crissman admitted that he had not watched the video before deleting it, Woodruff said. She said he told her the boy who took the video would serve an after-school detention. The boy still dressed for the next football game, she said.
Then, she said, several football players took revenge.
Threats and an anonymous letter
As the football players were getting ready for the Sept. 27 homecoming game, Woodruff said that same boy who took the video now threatened to kill Jack and his family if Jack ever told on him again. A different boy on the team, Woodruff said, pulled Jack’s head to his chest and forced Jack to suck his nipple. At 5-feet, 4-inches, Jack is much smaller than most boys on the Roncalli football team.
Jack later identified 11 boys who were present, Woodruff said. Some of the boys shot video of this incident too, she said.
Jack didn’t initially tell anyone about this assault. He was and still is terrified, Woodruff said.
Woodruff only found out about the assault from an anonymous letter sent by a team parent on Oct. 2 that describes the incident and other boys “laughing.”
Woodruff was stunned. She hired an attorney. She reported the incident to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on Oct. 3.
That public report, obtained by IndyStar, lists four unnamed boys as suspects in a child molest and forcible fondling investigation at 3300 Prague Road, Roncalli’s address.
The day after Woodruff made the police report, Crissman left her a voicemail. It was the first communication she received from Roncalli about the assault, Woodruff said. In the voicemail, Crissman said he wanted to discuss an anonymous allegation about her son the school had received and investigated. He said that the school had not been able to substantiate the allegations and that Jack himself had denied them.
Jack later told Woodruff he was afraid to talk about the incident for fear the players would hurt him and his family.
Jack never returned to the south-side Catholic high school. He’s now at another school miles away, where students don’t know him.
Jack is in counseling, Wooderuff said. He gets anxious when he thinks about Roncalli and the football team.
He may never understand, she said, why he had to leave a school he loved when he did nothing wrong.
“I very much feel like my son’s life is considered disposable because he’s not a star athlete. He’s not contributing to the overall success of the football program,” Woodruff told IndyStar. “It was easy for them to walk away and not support him.”