The investigation of sexual abuse allegations against teacher and coach Louis Neal "Skip" ReVille has spread to Summerville, resulting in an inquiry by the Summerville Police Department and, this week, a lawsuit against Pinewood Preparatory School by a former student.
On Monday, attorneys representing the student filed a lawsuit against the private school and its former headmaster, Glyn Cowlishaw, in a Dorchester County court. In an accusation that echoes one made against ReVille by a boy who was a camper at the Citadel's summer camp in 2002, the Pinewood student says ReVille invited him to his home, showed him pornographic videos, and masturbated in front of him. The lawsuit says that Cowlishaw and the school knew at the time that ReVille was spending time alone with children at his house and carried out a "conspiracy of silence," allowing ReVille to continue abusing the student 10 to 15 times and to get subsequent jobs working with children.
The anonymous student, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe, says he was 12 years old in August 2004 when he met ReVille for the first time. ReVille was the student's seventh-grade English teacher and basketball coach, and the student says the abuse went on until the school decided not to renew ReVille's contract in May 2006. Carolyn Baechtle, the current head of the school who was the admissions director at the time of the alleged abuse, says Pinewood received no accusations of sexual impropriety during ReVille's time at the school. "There's no factual basis" to the lawsuit, she says.
After ReVille's arrest, Baechtle initially would not specify why the school had terminated ReVille's contract, other than to say that his classroom instructional program was "not up to Pinewood standards." After the lawsuit, she elaborated a bit more: "He was teaching religion. He was not grading his papers but giving grades. Not communicating with parents in a timely manner. Those are not up to Pinewood standards for sure."
As for the assertion that the school knew ReVille had spent time alone with students, she says, "I don't personally know of time alone. I know there were parents that approved of him spending time alone with the students, but that was between him and a parent." Responding to the allegation that the school did not do enough to prevent sexually abusive behavior and time alone, she says, "The school is set up so that things are very open and transparent."
Cowlishaw has not responded yet to the accusations being made against him. A native of England who received his Education Specialist degree from the Citadel, he was head of the school from June 1997 to June 2011. During his 14 years in the position, he is credited with doubling the school's enrollment, expanding construction on the campus, and leading the school to its first-ever accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He took a job as head of Providence Day School in southeast Charlotte, N.C., on July 1.
Pinewood, a 59-year-old school with about 800 students in grades pre-K to 12, employed ReVille as a middle school English teacher and basketball coach from August 2002 to May 2006. Mt. Pleasant police arrested ReVille in Mt. Pleasant on Oct. 28, eventually charging him with nine counts of child sexual abuse. Since then, police in Charleston, Hanahan, and Summerville have started looking for other victims. Attorney Allan P. Sloan III sent a letter to Pinewood on Nov. 16 asking that the school cooperate in any investigations and agree not to destroy any documents regarding ReVille's hiring and employment at the school. Baechtle says the school has complied with the request.
Marlon Kimpson, a lawyer with the law firm Motley Rice who was one of five attorneys to sign the lawsuit, says he is not in a position to say whether or not John Doe reported the abuse to police or to school officials. The lawsuit says that ReVille produced a handwritten document in November 2005 stating that a Pinewood parent had made a complaint to the administration about him, specifically "that I join students for dinner and they come over to the house and so on." Kimpson says the school knew ReVille was spending time alone with children by the fall of 2005.
"We allege that there was a conscious regard not to do anything, therefore enabling this type of activity," Kimpson says. The lawsuit uses harsher language, calling for punitive damages to ensure a similar incident does not happen again at the school: "The wrongful acts of the Defendants showed willful misconduct, recklessness, malice, wantonness, oppression, and that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences and the rights of others."
Cowlishaw and the school have 30 days from the filing date on Monday to respond to the lawsuit.
Remembering Mr. ReVille
Matthew Londergan, a 2008 graduate of Pinewood Preparatory School, remembers having ReVille as a sixth-grade English teacher and an assistant coach on the football B-team. He says students thought highly of the fresh-faced Citadel graduate when he started teaching English there in 2002.
"At first, everyone really liked him because he was kind of a young teacher and he didn't really do things by the book," says Londergan, who will graduate from Clemson University later this month. He remembers ReVille as an approachable teacher who used an unorthodox grading system that added up points over the course of the year, building toward an A. But, he says, "as time went on, I think people started getting a vibe about him that things were kind of off."
For one thing, he says, ReVille was always asking him and his teammates to come with him to his house for sleepovers after practice. "He would say, 'You guys look tired. You want to come by, cool off at my house?'" he recalls. Londergan says he never went to one of the sleepovers, but some of his friends did.
In the classroom, too, he says he felt uncomfortable when ReVille required the students to keep diaries and turn them in for grading. He says ReVille encouraged the students to share details about their personal lives, ensured them he would not tell their parents about what they disclosed, and wrote notes back to them in the margins. "It sort of overstepped the line of the student-teacher relationships," he says.
Londergan never heard any direct accusations being made against ReVille, but he says that around the time Pinewood declined to renew the teacher's contract, a rumor started circulating around the school that he was watching pornography with students at his house.
Expanding the Search
Skip ReVille's list of criminal charges might still be far from complete. Capt. Jon Rogers, spokesman for the Summerville Police Department, has stayed quiet around reporters so far, saying only that "we're in the process of tracking down victims." Craig Jones, ReVille's attorney, told The Post and Courier that his client is meeting several times a week with investigators, giving the names of victims, and cooperating in the investigation. He has also said that ReVille will probably decline going to trial so he can spare his victims any further harm.
ReVille has been in close quarters with hundreds of children in his time working and volunteering as a teacher, coach, and church youth group volunteer. In Summerville, in addition to his roles at Pinewood, ReVille was a volunteer basketball coach at Rollings Middle School of the Arts, a public magnet school housed in the former Summerville High School building near the heart of downtown.
Dorchester School District Two spokesperson Pat Raynor says ReVille was never paid by the school district and always worked under the direct supervision of a school staff member who was a friend of his. She is not certain of the time frame when he volunteered, but she says, "It looks like it was just a very brief association."
Mike Turner, the school district's security coordinator, says he is uncertain of the time frame in which ReVille volunteered at Rollings. He says ReVille applied to be a substitute teacher in the district and was accepted, but he never filled any assignments.
No charges have been filed against ReVille in regards to his time in Summerville. The investigation is ongoing.