Pittsburgh Public Schools and two former school officials should have noticed that former school police officer Robert Lellock was repeatedly taking boys out of classes to sexually assault them in a janitor’s closet, one of Lellock’s victims claims in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
“They were charged with the welfare and protection of the children entrusted to them, and they failed these children repeatedly and systematically by turning a blind eye to the obvious signs of abuse being perpetrated by defendant Lellock,” the lawsuit says.
The Tribune-Review doesn’t name the victims of sexual assaults.
The man, now 29, says Lellock, 46, of Beltzhoover took him out of class more than two dozen times in the 1998-99 school year at Arthur J. Rooney Middle School in Brighton Heights. He did the same with up to 21 other boys that same year, the lawsuit says.
The victim claims Lellock wasn’t authorized to remove students from class, and that should have led teachers and administrators to look into what he was doing.
“Not a single teacher reported him, or even questioned him. Not a single teacher made an inquiry to the office,” the lawsuit says. “This speaks of a failure of training and policy of an unbelievable and conscience shocking level.”
Pennsylvania law gives the victims of child sexual abuse until their 30th birthday to file civil lawsuits over the assaults.
Lawyers for the victim waited to file the lawsuit to give him the best chance of winning, said Robert Peirce, one of his lawyers.
“We wanted to make sure that it was fully researched and that our client was prepared to proceed considering how traumatically these events have impacted his life,” he said.
He is suing Lellock, the school district, former superintendent Dale Frederick and former principal Ronald Zangaro.
An Allegheny County jury convicted Lellock in 2013 on 13 charges, including endangering the welfare of children, corrupting minors and indecent assault. He is serving a sentence of 32 to 64 years in state prison.
There was no phone listing for Zangaro. Frederick declined comment.
“We’ll certainly review it and take appropriate action,” said Ira Weiss, the district’s solicitor.
A federal judge in March 2014 dismissed the district and everyone except Lellock from another victim’s lawsuit.
Lellock worked in the district from 1990 until the school board suspended him with pay in July 2012 and accepted his resignation two months later.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or [email protected].