Archdiocese and school sued over girl's counseling

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com September 10 2003 12:00 AM ET

A former Albuquerque, N.M., sportscaster is suing the archdiocese of Santa Fe and St. Pius High School officials over counseling his daughter received at the school. A lawsuit filed by Terry McDermott, who is now a spokesman for Intel, and his wife and daughter alleges that the 15-year-old was counseled to visit an adult nightclub and a sexually explicit Web site when she questioned her sexual orientation.

Katie McDermott, who is now 19, sought help from St. Pius in the fall of 1999. She wanted help in talking about the issue with her parents because she didn't want to alienate them. "Katie was emotionally fragile, experiencing suicidal ideation, and needed competent professional care," according to the lawsuit.

But head counselor Patricia Carlton-McQueen didn't tell McDermott and his wife that their daughter was being counseled by the school or that she had tried to commit suicide, according to the lawsuit, filed July 14. And the suit claims that although the counselor claimed the sessions were confidential, word of Katie's problems spread around the school.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Celine Radigan said St. Pius denies the allegations but would not comment further. "We'll rely on the judicial process to resolve the situation," she said.

The McDermotts' attorney, Sam Bregman, said the family was "devastated by the actions of St. Pius, the archdiocese, and Archbishop Michael Sheehan."

When the McDermotts brought their concerns to Sheehan, the archbishop mischaracterized Katie's treatment as relating to "the gay issue" and ratified the conduct of the St. Pius administration, the suit said. "Sheehan hinted to the McDermotts that they should not make Katie's case public since it would expose Katie's sexual issues to the world," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit says Katie, a sophomore in the fall of 1999, suffered anxiety, depression, and confusion about sexual issues when the counseling began. Katie told Carlton-McQueen that she tried to take her own life, showing the marks of two separate wounds to her wrists, according to the suit. Carlton-McQueen told Katie she would provide counseling and would not tell her parents if Katie agreed not to kill herself, the suit said.

The suit also alleges that Carlton-McQueen "introduced Katie to a Web site containing images of explicit sexual acts between adult females" and "provided Katie with the address of an Albuquerque bar frequented by adult patrons who were served alcoholic beverages."

The lawsuit said the McDermotts were also Carlton-McQueen's clients since they were the parents of a child in counseling, and it quoted the state's Counseling and Therapy Practice Board. The McDermotts moved their daughter to another school, where she graduated. Katie also had to undergo professional counseling, the suit said.