INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A mother says her son who has down syndrome was assaulted at Roncalli High School. She claims the school did not take proper actions to address the bullying and now her son is scarred by the actions of other students.
Lesli Woodruff says her son, Jack, wanted nothing more to be a Roncalli Rebel. She says, he wore number 17, proudly as a student manager. It was a dream come true.
“It was a big achievement for him and a way for him to feel involved,” said Woodruff, “Those are some of my favorite pictures because you never thought you’d see him in a uniform and just to see how the boys allowed him to do that, it was heartwarming.”
Now, Woodruff claims what happened while he was on the team was more of a nightmare.
“My child is forever changed because of what they did to him,” Woodruff added.
She says her son was bullied and assaulted in the football locker rooms at Roncalli High School. There were two instances. Woodruff claims on September 9 while her son was using the bathroom, a football player came up behind him and told him to be quiet as he recorded video and put it on Snap Chat.
Woodruff recalls when Jack told her about what happened. “We were having dinner as usual and he nonchalantly says to me I have to tell you, something mom, you’re not going to like it, because it’s inappropriate and I said, okay.”
Woodruff reached out to Jack’s teacher immediately. She says after being made aware of the incident, the Dean of the school, deleted the video and the student received after school detention.
“We went in and we met with the Dean and he admitted to us that his number one priority was to get rid of the video, his job was to watch the video, but he didn’t watch the video as he was required to,” said Woodruff.
Less than a month later, on October 2, Woodruff says she got an anonymous letter in her mail telling her about another alarming situation involving her son.
“I open it and there is a letter that was typed out explaining to me that their child is a football player, they walked into the locker room and observed Jack being made to lick the nipples of another football player,” said Woodruff, “They were telling me this because they were afraid that nothing would happen.”
That pushed Woodruff to file a police report. She also hired the lawyer and they sent the school a letter they’d accept $150,000 to keep the situation confidential. The school didn’t agree. Woodruff says her concern is how the school handled both situations.
“Things have been pushed under the rug and kept quiet and people don’t think they have a voice and certainly when they did this to my son, they took away his voice,” said Woodruff.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis released a statement saying once Roncalli staff learned of the alleged incident, the school reported it to the Department of Child Services.
We are aware of an incident that occurred between students. Roncalli High School staff learned of the alleged incident and reported it to the Department of Child Services. Roncalli and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis are cooperating with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department during this ongoing investigation.
While we will not discuss disciplinary consequences enforced in response to the actions of individual students, please know that any student responsible for bullying and/or inappropriate conduct toward another student has been and will be disciplined appropriately, as outlined in the school’s Parent Student Handbook. Thus far, students have been suspended and one is no longer attending Roncalli. Following the outcome of the police investigation, further action may be taken.
The safety and well-being of every student is of utmost importance to us, and we are committed to continuously seeking ways to improve practices and procedures related to student safety. We remain confident that Roncalli High School offers an exceptional educational and faith formation experience in a safe, secure environment.
“If you choose to see the cup is half full, there’s still an opportunity for Roncalli to make changes that would help prevent this from happening again,” said Attorney Curt Johnson.
He hopes Roncalli will take ownership over what happened.
“Making the facts known, getting the truth out is the first step down that path,” said Johnson.
A path to inclusion, Woodruff hopes, that by sharing her son’s story this won’t happen to any other child.
“Not only for an individual with special needs, but for the people they’re surrounded by. There’s positive for both sides,” said Woodruff.
Woodruff expressed that she’s overwhelmed by the amount of people reaching out with positive messages. Many people are offering to help her son and include him in activities.
The investigation into this incident at Roncalli High School is ongoing.