WAYNE, Pa. (CBS) — In an exclusive interview with CBS3, a former Valley Forge Military Academy cadet is speaking out for the first time about alleged verbal and physical abuse he suffered at the boarding school, including an incident where six cadets forced a lacrosse stick into his mouth and tried to sodomize him with it. The former student filed a lawsuit in a Philadelphia court, accusing the military academy of allowing “pervasive child abuse of youth” for decades “under the watch of numerous administrators.”
He is identified in the lawsuit as John Doe to protect his privacy. He told CBS3’s Joe Holden that surviving at the school was about coping with daily hazing, bullying, physical and even sexual abuse. He says he also feared for his life.
“It was just very hard to see that future because of all the chaos that was going on,” he said.
The former student listed several alleged incidents in 2016 and 2017, including being assaulted by another student in the classroom with the teacher in the room; having his property stolen from his dorm by other cadets; having his head slammed into a wall; cadets stealing his towel while he was in the communal bathroom and urinating on it; and cadets throwing shaving cream cans at him while in the shower.
The lawsuit also lists an alleged incident where the student was locked in a dorm room by six cadets and repeatedly beaten with a lacrosse stick. At one point, the cadets tried to force the stick into his mouth and then tried to penetrate him with it through his clothes in a ritual known as “tooth-pasting.”
“This heinous ritual that they have at Valley Forge called tooth-pasting, things you wouldn’t expect to see anywhere, but especially at an internationally renowned military boarding school,” said attorney Stewart Ryan, of Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP.
During this incident, the victim was waterboarded and left hanging from a door.
“Sometimes I get a little bit of tunnel vision, and it’s more of one thought leads to another about what happened, and then I get the flashbacks of every single thing that has happened,” the victim told CBS3.
In the suit, lawyers allege the school avoided calling the police and chose instead to handle the matter internally, writing they’re responsible for the “failure to protect plaintiff and other children from severe and pervasive abuse that was rampant for years, perpetrated by both employees and students.”
“It got to a point where I was wondering if I could ever step out into society again, because, you know, I was constantly thinking about what happened to me,” John Doe said.
The military academy said in a statement that they are “surprised” by the lawsuit, but that the incident was “handled appropriately.”
“This incident was investigated, reported and handled appropriately in accordance with appropriate law and in cooperation with local police, including the discipline of involved cadets up to and including dismissal. Back in 2017, we believed the parents involved were satisfied with our handling of the situation; we’re surprised by this potential lawsuit, but stand behind our process and conclusions,” the school said.
The former student is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.