CHICAGO (CBS) — Two men, who are now in their 50’s, have filed a lawsuit against their former drama teacher at Evanston Township High School, saying he sexually abused them and that it was an “open secret” at the school.
The men, who were students in the late 1970’s, have filed the suit under the names of “John Does” against Bruce Siewerth.
Attorney Michael Mertz, who represents both men, says students felt like they had to put up with the abuse in order to receive good roles in the theater department’s productions.
“He had to put up with groping, he had to put up with touching, he had to put up with molestation,” Mertz said, referring to one of the men he’s representing.
The lawsuit also names Evanston High School, District 202 and the Board of Education, accusing all of knowing about Siewerth’s actions but doing nothing.
“We believe, through our investigation, that there were other members of the department who were aware of the abuse — that there were administrators and others aware of the abuse — and when reports were made by parents and others, those reports fell on deaf ears.”
Mertz says the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the subsequent social media #MeToo campaign, and a tweet by one of Siewerth’s former students encouraged his clients to come forward.
It also prompted another Evanston alum, WTTW correspondent Jay Shefsky, to share his own high school experience with Siewerth in New York when he was a teenager.
“The teacher and this other student invited me to join them. We went to see see hardcore gay porn in a Times Square movie theater,” Shefsky said.
Evanston Police say 50 people have now contacted them about Siewerth, adding they may be possible victims, witnesses or simply have knowledge to share.
“My investigation shows he had many victims,” Mertz said.
No one from the high school or District 202 returned our calls for comment on the lawsuit. A woman at Siewerth’s suburban house told CBS 2 he was not home to comment.
This investigation is ongoing.