A former student at Valley Forge Military Academy and College has filed suit against the prestigious Main Line institution, claiming he was sexually assaulted by other male students in a brutal hazing ritual known as “toothpasting.”
On April 17, attorneys for “John Doe” filed a 24-page lawsuit against the school in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
The suit alleges that Doe was sexually assaulted by classmates while school officials ignored the situation. In addition to having a lacrosse stick inserted in his rectum, Doe allegedly was waterboarded, beaten up and verbally abused by other cadets.
Doe was so affected by the alleged mistreatment, he now relies on psychiatric medications to function, according to court records. The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages from the school, which is located in Radnor Township. A jury trial has been requested. The case has been assigned to Common Pleas Judge Arnold L. New.
“Cadets at [the school] would severely degrade other cadets, including but not limited to physical and emotional assaults on Doe,” the suit alleges. “On numerous occasions, other cadets would create songs about Doe to embarrass, humiliate and antagonize [him]. This type of bullying was commonplace at [the school].”
The most serious assault against Doe occurred in February 2017, when he was a senior at the school, according to the suit.
“On or about Feb. 25, 2017, Doe is subjected to a violent assault by other cadets at [the school] while in the dormitory room of another cadet,” the suit alleges. “Approximately six cadets locked Doe in the dormitory room. Doe was repeatedly and violently hit with a lacrosse stick. Doe’s mouth is forced open and a lacrosse stick is forced into his mouth, as far as possible. Cadets then attempt to penetrate Doe anally with the same lacrosse stick, through his clothes. This violent assault is so common at [the school] that cadets have named it ‘toothpasting.’ According to a former cadet, toothpasting is ‘somewhat of an initiation at [the school]. It consists of someone putting a stick in someone’s butt, pants on.’ In describing this ‘ritual,’ the same cadet admitted to an episode where he and another cadet picked up a nearby broom handle and shoved the broom handle into another cadet’s rear end.”
“Shockingly, Doe had to endure further assaults,” the suit continues. “Doe’s hands and legs are restrained. Cadets covered his eyes and begin striking him with belts. Cadets ‘waterboarded’ Doe by covering his face and pouring water on his face and mouth to simulate drowning. Cadets attempted to hang Doe from the door in his dormitory using his restrained arms and legs. Doe was left screaming while hanging restrained and blindfolded from the door.”
He was not found for about 20 minutes, the suit adds.
“In March 2017, John Doe reached his breaking point, wanting to quit school. He was unable to attend school for the remainder of the year and was forced to complete his courses through remote instruction,” the suit alleges.
Juvenile charges were filed against three boys connected to the assaults and were dealt with through the juvenile justice system, according to the suit.
The school issued the following statement: “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.”