November 27, 2018
Parents of three toddlers have filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Norristown’s St. Francis Learning Center.
The lawsuit alleges the archdiocese and preschool didn’t properly screen Michael Barbee, according to the Associated Press. Barbee was charged with sexually abusing a 3-year-old at St. Francis in February of 2017, and later pled guilty to aggravated indecent assault of a child.
Barbee is currently serving a sentence of four to eight years in prison.
The Archdiocese previously said in a 2017 statement that Barbee had been appropriately screened, per Philly.com:
“There were no prior indications that Mr. Barbee was involved in activity of this nature,’ Gavin said. ‘Prior to beginning his term of employment with St. Francis of Assisi Parish, appropriate criminal background checks as well as child-abuse clearances had been obtained and he completed mandatory Safe Environment Training programs.’”
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese declined to comment on the Associated Press's report.
Barbee was placed on administrative leave when officials learned of the criminal investigation, and his employment was terminated when the parish learned of his arrest.
In August, a grand jury report revealed sexual abuse allegations against more than 300 priests across the state of Pennsylvania, although Philadelphia’s Archdiocese wasn’t included in the investigation.
Earlier this month, the Archdiocese announced plans to establish compensation funds for surviving victims of clergy sexual abuse.