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Attorneys claim 10 sex abuse victims at school just ‘tip of the iceberg’
By Pat Reavy, Deseret News
Published: Thursday, June 23 2011 11:23 p.m. MDT
Eric Allen Glosson, 28, has been charged with sexually abusing students at the Silverado Academy in Panguitch. He is charged with 10 felonies, including eight counts of forcible sexual abuse.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Office
SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for students at a southern Utah boarding school say they’ve identified at least 10 boys who were sexually abused there and believe that’s “only the tip of the iceberg.”
Thursday, attorneys with the law firm Dewsnup, King and Olsen filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of three of the teens. Attorney Colin King said managers of the Silverado Academy, a 200-acre ranch in Panguitch that advertises itself as a clinical boarding school for teens between 13 and 18, were “woefully negligent in their oversight and supervision” of the students.
Eric Allen Glosson, 28, was charged in Garfield County’s 6th District Court with eight counts of forcible sexual abuse; and one count of custodial sexual relations with a youth receiving state services, second-degree felonies; and dealing in materials harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony.
Since either December or January, Glosson molested several boys at the school, all between the ages of 14 and 18, King said. The latest abuse allegedly occurred last week on June 17. Glosson, who had already been fired once from the academy in 2009 for having inappropriate relations with students, was recently rehired, the lawsuit claims, and had unsupervised access to the teens that he shouldn’t have.
“Due to the absence of appropriate oversight, supervision and security policies, procedures and practices, Mr. Glosson was allowed to have repeated access to and time with individual students privately, in multiple locations and settings, including students over whom he was not a coach and had no supervisory duties,” according to the lawsuit.
The alleged molestations occurred in places such as the school, in classrooms and in both Glosson’s and the students’ living quarters, King said. Investigators believe some of the incidents were videotaped, said attorney Dustin Lance, who also represents the plaintiffs.
Computers and video equipment have been seized by police detectives, he said.
Glosson kept students quiet by threatening to hold them back from advancing in the program, through “bribery, physical force, intimidation and deceit,” the lawsuit states.
In late May or early June, the lawsuit says a former student who had left the school and moved to Arizona contacted Glosson through Facebook and threatened to go public with the alleged abuse he inflicted on him. Supervisors at Silverado were notified but took no action, according to the suit.
It wasn’t until a student recently spoke up about his alleged abuse to another supervisor that Glosson was arrested, King said. “It was a horrible secret they’d been forced to keep.”
Once that student spoke up, others stepped forward. The supervisor went to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, which launched an investigation.
The student who initially spoke up was allegedly told by Silverado management not to mention the abuse to his parents when he was allowed to call home on Father’s Day, according to the lawsuit.
Although there are good staff members who were unaware of what was happening, attorneys for the plaintiffs say, overall the Silverado Academy “manifested a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of the rights” of the children and their parents.
King said Silverado had a duty to care for the children who attended the school and look out for their welfare. Silverado suffered from a lack of leadership, management, practice and procedures, King said.
The co-founder and executive director of the academy is former U.S. Senate candidate Tim Bridgewater.
“If proven true, it’s very saddening for all of us,” Bridgewater said of the allegations Thursday. “We’re a licensed facility governed by the state. We’re in complete compliance. This person had a background check, which he passed.”
Bridgewater said the first he heard of the allegations was Sunday.
Silverado released a statement Wednesday, prior to the civil lawsuit being filed.
“Early Sunday morning, a student reported allegations of inappropriate conduct by one staff member,” that statement says. “The Garfield County sheriff was immediately called by our staff to report the allegations and to request an investigation.”
Investigators interviewed students and staff. “The staff member involved in the allegations was also interviewed and was taken into custody. The employee was immediately suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement reads.
The Academy said it is “cooperating fully” in the investigation.
King calls Glosson a “sexual predator” and believes there are likely more victims who have already left the academy who are still “suffering in silent.” Many of the students who attend the school are from out of state. He called them “good kids” with some problems. Their parents spent between $4,000 and $7,000 per month to send their children to Silverado, he said.
After Glosson was fired from his first stint at Silverado, King said he worked for another undisclosed boarding school program in southern Utah.
King did not disclose Thursday how much in monetary damages the lawsuit would be seeking.
Glosson made an initial appearance in 6th District Court in Panguitch Thursday to hear the charges against him. Another court date was set for July 7. He was ordered to remain in jail on $130,000 cash only bond.
“We have reports of other victims out there and we’re in the process of following up on those other victims,” Garfield County Sheriff James Perkins said Thursday following Glosson’s appearance.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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