More than three dozen men, identified only by their initials, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state and the Department of Juvenile Services, alleging they were sexually abused as young boys while in the custody of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Parkville.

The complaint, filed in Circuit Court for Baltimore City, claims the school “has been a hotbed of sexual abuse” and that the state has allowed Hickey’s “culture of abuse to flourish unabated” despite federal and state investigations into the home, reports of abuse, and public demands to close the facility.

The suit alleges the 37 men were sexually abused by guards, counselors and other staff members over a period of four decades, from the 1970s to the 2000s. The abuse consisted of touching, coercion and rape, the suit claimed. The plaintiffs range in age from 30 to 66.

“Our clients arrived at the Charles Hickey School when they were young boys in need of the rehabilitation and care the juvenile justice system is supposed to provide,” wrote attorney Jerome Block, whose New York firm Levy Konigsberg LLP is representing the men. “Instead, they were victims of a pattern of sexual abuse that goes back decades at the Hickey School. The sexual abuse inflicted on children in Maryland juvenile detention facilities was severe and widespread. This complaint is only the tip of the iceberg.”

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The suit alleges physical, emotional, and psychological harm and requests a trial by jury. It does not specify a dollar amount in compensatory damages.

Block said his firm, along with co-counsel Brown Kiely LLP, a Bethesda-based law firm, are representing a total of more than 200 men and women who claim they were sexually abused at juvenile detention centers in Maryland.

The latest lawsuit comes a week after 20 adults ranging in age from 23 to 50 filed a similar lawsuit against the state alleging sexual abuse while they were in custody at the Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center in Laurel.

Both cases were made possible by the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023, which went into effect Oct. 1 and eliminated the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse to file complaints against institutions they say harmed them. Lawmakers approved the act earlier this year and Gov. Wes Moore signed the bill into law.

On the day it went into effect, a total of 50 plaintiffs filed six lawsuits against the state, claiming they were abused while they were in the care of six state-run juvenile detention centers affiliated with the state’s Department of Juvenile Services and Department of Health. The accusations in those lawsuits claimed the abuse started as far back as the 1960s and continued as recently as 2019.

Hugo Kugiya is a reporter for the Express Desk and has formerly reported for the Associated Press, Newsday, and the Seattle Times. 

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