NJ high school coaches accused of being pervs with teen wrestlers
ORADELL — A sexual abuse lawsuit has rocked a nationally ranked wrestling program at Bergen Catholic High School.
The complaint, filed in state Superior Court by a former member of the team, alleges that head coach Dave Bell was routinely naked with players in the locker room while assistant coach Donnie Sparto showed graphic pictures of himself and others to wrestlers during trips to tournaments in Delaware and California.
Bell is accused of "inappropriately undressing with minors" during this past season and watching wrestlers, including the plaintiff, change in the locker room while members of the team were partially or completely undressed.
The legal complaint — a copy of which was posted by NorthJersey.com — claims Bell made inappropriate comments when he told the boy that his body was "shredded."
Nobody named in the lawsuit was charged with a crime.
The boy's parents, according to the lawsuit, were concerned about the presence of Joseph Trause, a former assistant coach who was accused in separate instances of bullying team members.
The suit claims that after the plaintiff's parents asked school president Brian Walsh for an update on their complaints, they were told their son was off the wrestling team in a letter and wrote "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH."
The suit claims that principal Timothy McElhinney told the boy's parents that they were "deflecting" the real issue, which was that his parents were barred from entering the locker room after raising concerns about "harassment, abuse, intimidation and bullying" in the wrestling room.
According to the lawsuit, the student was blackballed from transferring to St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale and Paramus Catholic High School, leaving him "deprived" of getting a Christian education.
According to the lawsuit, the student learned of similar cases of sexual abuse against a minor the school administration was aware of that went unreported to police.
In a statement to NorthJersey.com, an attorney for Bell denied the allegations and blamed the former student bringing the suit.
"When people fall short far too often rather than taking accountability for their own shortcomings, they look to strike a blow at anyone they perceive is the reason for their failure," attorney Sean Pena wrote.
The Newark Archdiocese, named in the case, said the school is operated by the Edmund Rice School Network and had no comment. They are commonly known as Christian Brothers.
Walsh is leaving the school effective July 1 to become director of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers Ofﬁce of Education Services in New Rochelle, New York, according to the school's website.
Bergen Catholic and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office have not yet responded to messages seeking comment.