PORTLAND (AP) – Cheverus High School alumni are being asked to contribute to a fund to pay $8,100 in legal fees charged to former students who were sexually abused by a former track coach.

Using an alumni list dating back to 1921, a group of alumni recently mailed 3,200 letters to Cheverus graduates across the country asking for donations to the Cheverus Alumni Defense Fund.

The money raised will pay for legal fees that accrued during discussions between school officials and alumni who were sexually assaulted by former Cheverus track coach Charles Malia. The school has refused to pay for the fees.

Tom Kane, a Cheverus alumnus and former Portland city councilor who initiated the fund-raiser, said $1,900 had been raised as of Monday.

“One of the things they talked about at Cheverus was loyalty and this just seems like something we should do. This seemed concrete, something we could provide a solution to,” Kane said. “We just said that anything you could do, we would appreciate.”

Malia, a highly acclaimed former teacher and coach at Cheverus, admitted a few years ago that he once had sexual contact with several students.

Several former students have since come forward with accounts of abuse at Malia’s hands in the 1960s and 1970s. A criminal investigation determined that the statute of limitations had expired in all the cases.

Kane believes the school should have paid the fees, but wants to focus on raising the money.

“We’re not doing it out of any malice towards Cheverus,” Kane said. “We wish it could’ve been through Cheverus, but that’s OK.”

The Rev. John Keegan, president of Cheverus, said the school is supportive of the victims but is not liable for the legal fees because it did not hire the lawyer. The board has paid $20,000 in counseling fees for the victims, he said.

“The fact is that one of the victims hired the lawyer. We didn’t hire the lawyer and there was never a lawsuit,” he said.

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