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Former Priest Transferred By Toledo Schools

Oct 1, 2002 | The Toledo Blade

A Toledo Public Schools dean accused of sexually molesting and abusing boys when he was a Catholic priest in the 1980s has been transferred to a job supervising janitors at night.

Dennis Gray will not be in direct contact with students in his position with the school system - two weeks after he agreed to be removed as dean of students at Rogers High School.

"It’s basically a job working the phones and overseeing janitorial services," said Jane Bruss, a spokeswoman for the school district.

The 54-year-old educator, who has two master’s degrees, was placed on a leave of absence from his dean’s job Sept. 16 - a day after The Blade published an article about accusations that he raped and abused boys while he was a priest at Central Catholic High School.

Mr. Gray, who left the priesthood in 1987, has denied the allegations in what has become the largest sex-abuse case in the Toledo Catholic Diocese.

In the last two weeks, seven lawsuits have been filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court accusing Mr. Gray of preying on youths ages 11 through 17 in church rectories and his cottage while he was a priest from 1975 to 1987.

Three former students told The Blade they were forced into sex acts by the priest, and another said he was slapped and punched by then-Father Gray during trips to his cottage in Michigan’s Irish Hills.

Though diocese officials say they were aware of sex-misconduct allegations against Mr. Gray in early 1987, they never asked for a police investigation. That same year, he left the priesthood with a clean record and no reference to his problems and was hired by Toledo Public Schools in 1990 as a dean of boys at Start High.

There are no accusations of sexual abuse during his 12 years with the public schools. He was severely rebuked in 2000 for making insensitive remarks to students and teachers, records show.

As a result of the most recent action, Mr. Gray will continue to receive his dean’s salary of $59,597 a year, but he’ll work more days in his new job: 232 a year, up from his former 197, Ms. Bruss said. His duties, which include scheduling, record-keeping, and overseeing janitors in various schools, began Sept. 26.

He works from 3 to 11 p.m. in the south wing of the former DeVilbiss High School on Upton Avenue, away from the north end of the complex where scores of students attend technology and language classes, said Ms. Bruss. The school also houses the district’s talented and gifted program. "He will not be in [daily contact] with students," she said, adding that Mr. Gray was not at work yesterday after calling in sick.

As part of his transfer, Mr. Gray married with four children has applied for disability retirement, records show. In 2000, Mr. Gray told school officials he was going to apply for early disability benefits, saying he was undergoing psychological counseling for mental distress. But he later accepted the dean’s job at Rogers High School and never pressed for retirement.

As dean of students at Rogers, Mr. Gray helped set the conduct code, and he enforced discipline.

After the Blade article was published last month about his past abuse accusations, numerous parents contacted the school and district offices expressing concern for the safety of their children.

One man asked for an investigation into the backgrounds of all school employees, and another threatened protests if Mr. Gray was not removed, according to phone records and e-mails. Dr. Ray Russell, school principal, could not be reached for comment.

Records show school officials were called July 16 and 17 by representatives of a sex abuse survivors’ network alerting them to allegations in Mr. Gray’s past. But school officials said they could not conduct an investigation without an official complaint.

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