Pinewood, former students reach settlement in ReVille molestation lawsuits
Pinewood Preparatory School has reached a confidential settlement with two former students who sued the school alleging negligence after they were sexually abused by ex-teacher Louis “Skip” ReVille, a serial molester.
The Summerville private school and Motley Rice, the law firm representing the former students, announced the resolution in a joint statement Friday afternoon.
Pinewood admitted no wrongdoing, and neither side would say how much money changed hands. But the settlement does include the adoption of a new school policy designed to safeguard students against abuse.
“With the conclusion of these cases, our clients will finally be able to move one more step in the right direction, continuing this most difficult healing process,” Motley Rice attorney David Hoyle said. “I applaud the bravery and commitment of these young men to see this case to the end, despite the intense emotions and hurt the process often brought back for them and their families.”
The settlement ends the lawsuits filed against Pinewood, former Headmaster Glyn Cowlishaw and guidance director Brendan Diffley in connection with ReVille’s misdeeds. The former students had accused the defendants of failing to protect them from ReVille’s illicit advances and engaging in a conspiracy of silence that allowed him to continue preying on young boys.
Pinewood officials have strongly denied those allegations and maintained that they knew nothing of ReVille’s improprieties when he worked for the school as a teacher and assistant coach from 2002 to 2006.
ReVille, 34, pleaded guilty in 2012 to molesting 23 boys from the Charleston area, including Pinewood students. He is now serving a 50-year prison sentence for his crimes.
Lisa Grossman, chairwoman of Pinewood’s board of trustees, and Headmaster Steve Mandell said the settlement closes a painful chapter for the school and hopefully will help bring closure to ReVille’s victims and all those affected by the episode.
“With this settlement completed, Pinewood and its staff will continue to focus on preparing students to excel in college and inspire them to make a positive impact on the world,” Grossman said.
As part of the settlement, the school has adopted a new child protection policy that includes stricter screening for applicants and expanded training to make its employees and volunteers aware of the threats abuse poses to children. The school has been working with Darkness to Light on the training initiative, Mandell said.
The school’s board of trustees also pledged Pinewood’s support to Darkness to Light, the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center and the Medical University of South Carolina’s National Crime Victims Center.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims of Skip ReVille, who preyed on young people at numerous institutions here in the Lowcountry,” Grossman said. “There is no question that these events have contributed to a deeper understanding of how sexual predators operate, helping the school create a Child Protection Policy and mandatory employee training moving forward.”
The policy will remain in effect for at least 10 years, and an annual report will detail the school’s compliance with the protocol, school officials said. Pinewood also agreed to allow outside monitors to conduct an annual review of its documents to attest to its compliance with the policy.
The monitor each year will be an outside, independent attorney, Hoyle said.
After his arrest in 2011, ReVille sought to cast blame for his lengthy molestation spree on others, including Pinewood, prosecutors have said. Among other things, he told investigators that Cowlishaw confronted and reprimanded him for inappropriate sexual activity with a minor child, authorities said.
Cowlishaw denied that was the case, maintaining that he confronted ReVille about “inappropriate social behavior,” including being too friendly with a student and spending too much time outside of class with the boy. School records and other statements support Cowlishaw’s account of the episode, prosecutors have said.
ReVille left the school in May 2006 after his contract was not renewed. Pinewood officials said he was let go due to performance issues, such as failing to grade and return students’ papers in a timely manner. After his departure, he cycled through nearly a dozen coaching, teaching and church posts throughout the region, picking up new victims along the way.
First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe announced last year that no criminal charges would be brought against Pinewood, citing a State Law Enforcement Division investigation that found no proof school officials shirked their duty and tried to hide sexual abuse by ReVille.
Seeking more information on what school officials knew, Motley Rice went after records of counseling sessions ReVille attended in 2006, at Pinewood’s urging.
The sessions were paid for by former Pinewood board chairman George Milner and his wife, who said they were concerned that ReVille was depressed, struggling with his relationships with other people and uncertain about his future.
W. Scott McBroom, the West Ashley counselor who met with ReVille, refused to hand over his notes. But a Dorchester County judge in late September ordered McBroom to share the material with Motley Rice.
Clay McCullough, one of Pinewood’s lawyers, said that ruling had nothing to do with Pinewood’s decision to settle the lawsuits. For various reasons, the sharing of McBroom’s files was further delayed after the judge’s ruling. The settlement was then reached, rendering the transfer unnecessary, he said.
Hoyle said he believes the judge’s ruling on the files affected the timetable of the negotiations, but he declined to say more.
The Pinewood board of trustees adopted the school’s new child protection policy on Oct. 3, nine days after the judge’s ruling on the files.
Natalie Caula contributed to this report. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.