Presentation High: 20 students, alums now allege sex abuse involving 8 teachers, staff
By John Woolfolk, February 7, 2018, Bay Area News Group, The Mercury News
The number of women claiming they were sexually abused as students at a prestigious San Jose Catholic girls high school has swelled to 20 while the number of accused staff has grown to eight. The mounting accusations surfaced as nearly 5,000 former students and their supporters have signed a petition demanding an independent investigation of how the administration handled reported abuse.
But even amid a global “#MeToo” reckoning of sexual abuse, the accusers say, Presentation High School officials are ignoring their demands, and the former students are urging alumnae to withhold financial support until school officials call for an independent investigation.
“It sounds like they’re hoping we’ll go away,” said Kathryn Leehane, who wrote Oct. 20 in the Washington Post about how she and a classmate complained decades ago about abuse by a former Presentation teacher to no avail. The teacher remained on the job and has since died.
Since her article, 18 other students and graduates have come forward with similar stories involving eight Presentation teachers or other staff, according to “#PresentationToo,” a group of alumnae, students, parents and others.
“It’s definitely gotten much bigger,” Leehane said. “I had no idea the can of worms I was opening. But once I heard from so many young women, I couldn’t turn my back. That’s not what Presentation taught me. They taught me to fight for the unrepresented.”
In a response Wednesday, Presentation’s board of directors continued to defend school officials. “In all instances, PHS administration acted responsibly and followed the laws of California in handling the cases that were reported.” A school official also questioned the reported number of alleged victims and abusers.
The board also was unfazed by the petition. “We do not create school policy based upon petitions and social media accounts,” its statement said.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.