Since January of last year, when Alison Kelly was removed from Immaculate Conception School (IC) as its principal in the wake of an “indecent exposure” scandal that turned out to be not so scandalous, she has applied to more than 100 teacher or principal job openings.
None have called back.
She is seemingly haunted by the incident and what comes up when potential employers do a simple Google search and read about the IC incident.
The highly qualified principal with many years of experience is now working as a paraprofessional for $12 an hour – and she blames her predicament on the Archdiocese of Boston for having hurriedly removed her in what was initially believed to be sexual misconduct, but turned out to be nothing of the sort following a police investigation.
That investigation’s conclusion, however, came too late for Kelly, who had been forced – she contends – to resign days earlier.
On Tuesday afternoon, she filed a five-count lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court for defamation, breach of contract, conspiracy and emotional distress. The suit did not name any amount, but called for a jury demand for the losses and emotional damages she has endured for the past 10 months since the “janitor incident” at Immaculate Conception.
“It is clear, from the evidence, that the Church administration seriously mishandled this situation,” said Attorney Gerard Malone. “Haunted by its past failures of not responding in a timely manner to allegations of sexual misconduct, the Church panicked and prematurely rushed to judgment without properly investigating this matter. The Church sacrificed the stellar, professional reputation of Mrs. Kelly by forcing her to resign, and then issuing false statements to the media and the community at large in an effort to appear to be acting quickly and decisively. The fact is that Mrs. Kelly complied fully with all legal, moral, and ethical requirements regarding reporting these incidents. Mrs. Kelly’s professional reputation has been permanently damaged and she is extremely saddened by the reaction of her church in this matter.”
The situation unfolded last December just before Christmas break at IC, the complaint read.
A parent had come to a second grade teacher and to Kelly to tell them that her son had been uncomfortable due to the janitor being in the bathroom while he was there. While there was nothing alleged to have happened, the boy was uncomfortable and the mother wished it to be addressed as quietly as possible.
Kelly is alleged to have brought the matter up to former Parish Priest George Szal, but could not bring it up directly to the janitor due to an unrelated accounting investigation the janitor was allegedly involved in.
“Upon information and belief, (the janitor) was being investigated by the Archdiocese for an accounting discrepancy,” read the suit. “While this investigation was ongoing, (the janitor) had informed Mrs. Kelly that he would not speak to her without his lawyer present. For this reason, Mrs. Kelly did not address (the janitor) directly regarding his presence in the bathroom.”
That was a key piece of alleged new information, and Kelly indicated that she reported the matter to Szal, who indicated he would take care of it.
However, on Jan. 9, the parent once again reported that five days earlier, the janitor had been in the bathroom once again while her son was there. Once again, it made the son uncomfortable, but nothing improper was alleged to occur.
Kelly alleges that she immediately went to the Rectory and had a meeting with another parish priest, who had Szal phone in to also be part of the meeting. Szal allegedly said the janitor should leave the premises immediately and Kelly should call the Archdiocese.
Kelly did just that, she said, calling the Archdiocese and talking to higher-ups in the school administration and also Fran O’Connor, assistant general counsel. They asked her to notify Department of Children and Families (DCF) and file a 51A report on the matter.
After a review of the report, Kelly said she was cleared to fax it to DCF, which she did.
The next day, Kelly indicated that Szal called her abruptly and said he was resigning at the request of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, but that Kelly would not suffer any consequences.
On Sunday, Kelly said she got a letter from Archdiocesan Supt. of School Kathleen Mears with a letter addressed to parents – an infamous letter in the IC community that was sent home that Monday and which sparked a major frenzy in the school and the media.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13, Kelly indicated in the complaint that calls began coming in and parents were in a line to speak to her. She called Mears, who allegedly told her to meet with parents individually, but give them no new information.
Later that day, Kelly alleges that Mears showed up at the school and gave her the ultimatum of resigning or being terminated. In fear, Kelly alleged, she resigned so as not to be fired.
Kelly alleged after resigning that she was barraged by news media and three of her four children had messages on their personal cell phones from members of the media asking for comment. Similar requests were made of Kelly’s parents and sisters. None of Kelly’s family had even heard about the incident before getting calls from the media.
Kelly alleges that the Archdiocese had leaked information of her resignation to the media before she had left the school.
A letter later that evening informed parents and the public that Kelly, Szal and a second grade teacher had resigned over not reporting a “potential indecent exposure” by a staff member.
On Jan. 14, Kelly alleges that meetings were held at the school where representatives from the Archdiocese indicated Kelly resigned because she broke the law and knew she had done so.
“All of these statements are blatantly false,” read the complaint. “Mrs. Kelly did not break any law; she did not admit that she broke the law; and she did not admit that she failed to follow proper procedures…Mrs. Kelly resigned because of the ultimatum given to her by Supt. Mears to either resign or be terminated…”
On Jan. 20, Revere Police and the Suffolk County DA’s Office concluded officially that there had been no “indecent exposure” and no criminal charges were going to come of the matter.
Afterward, Kelly’s claim indicates, no one from the Archdiocese retracted any of their statements nor had anyone corrected any of those statements.
Kelly’s complaint read that the Archdiocese panicked and scapegoated Kelly due to being “haunted” by its “failure to acknowledge and respond to allegations of sexual abuse” in the past all over Greater Boston.
“In particular, the Archdiocese has been haunted by the scandal surrounding the return of Rev. James R. Porter to Immaculate Conception Parish in Revere in 1966 after Rev. Porter was forced to leave the Fall River Diocese because of numerous allegations of sexual abuse,” read the complaint. “In the instant case, the Defendants intentionally failed to conduct a fair and complete investigation because it served their own aims to appear to be taking quick and decisive action against its employees. The Archdiocese intentionally scapegoated Mrs. Kelly to create the image for the public that it now takes allegations of sexual abuse seriously, in contrast to its past wrongful conduct in ignoring, covering up, and mishandling such allegations. Mrs. Kelly did not provide the Defendants with any ‘good cause’ to terminate the Contract.”
It is believed that the second grade teacher who also resigned as a result of the incident has hired an attorney and will also be filing a similar suit.
That, however, could not be confirmed by press time.
It is not known, even by Kelly’s attorneys, where Father Szal is currently living.