Sex abuse lawsuit filed against Brooklyn Friends School

The outside of the Brooklyn Friends School in downtown Brooklyn.
Chandler Kidd

An East Flatbush native is suing her Downtown Brooklyn alma mater for allegedly failing to protect her as an 8-year-old student against the sexual abuse of a former janitor.

Attorneys for Amala Muhammed Redd, 47, filed suit in Brooklyn Supreme Court against the prestigious Brooklyn Friends School — part of a network of Quaker-run college prep schools that demands more than $45,000 in annual tuition — seeking unspecified damages.

Redd, who attended Brooklyn Friends School from 1978 to 1990, claims she suffered repeated sexual abuse at the hands of a former custodian during her second- and third-grade years at the Pearl Street academy, where she endured open-mouth kissing, oral sex, and rape, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, Redd’s gym teacher facilitated the abuse by allowing the janitor to routinely pull the young girl from class without reason, according to the suit.

By third grade, Redd had begun injuring herself to avoid gym class and her abuser, but it wasn’t until a teacher caught the janitor in the act of sexually assaulting the young student that the school took action, alerting police and Redd’s mother, and firing the custodian, according to Redd’s attorney.

“Here we have a prestigious private school managed by presumably intelligent and progressive people, who witnessed a young child being taken out of class by a janitor, trying to avoid going to gym class, acting out, and did nothing in the face of these glaring red flags of abuse. Instead, fortuitously, this janitor happens to be seen by a teacher and only then is action taken. This is beyond negligence.” said attorney Irwin Zalkin.

After being told of the abuse, Redd’s mother declined to pursue charges against the janitor, fearing that the scandal would jeopardize her daughter’s place at the elite prep school, and the predator’s whereabouts are currently unknown, according to Zalkin, who said he hopes the suit leads Brooklyn Friends to turn over documents that may help track down Redd’s abuser.

“One of the things we’re going to demand from the school is his personnel file, and that may help us get a better lead,” Zalkin said.

The head of Brooklyn Friends School said she takes Redd’s allegations seriously, and will work to understand whatever mistakes may have occurred nearly 40 years ago.

“The safety of our students – past, present, and future – is obviously our highest priority,” said Head of School Crissy Cáceres. “These allegations are serious and are receiving thorough attention. I will continue to lead this community with care as we all work to better understand and process these alleged events of over thirty years ago.”

The plaintiffs are suing under the Child Victims Act, which provides victims abused as minors with a 365-day “looks back window” to circumvent statute of limitations restrictions and file lawsuits against their abusers — regardless of when the abuse occurred.

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at ckidd@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at twitter.com/ChanAnnKidd.

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