Damning Report on Abuse at Presentation High School Released, SNAP Calls for Attorney General Intervention
A damning report into abuse and cover-up at a San Jose high school was released yesterday. This investigation revealed a culture of minimization and an unwillingness to report abuse to authorities. It is a microcosm of the problems that continue to plague the Catholic Church today.
Once again, despite the promises made in 2002, we have clear and convincing evidence that church employees failed to take abuse allegations seriously, broke mandatory reporting laws by not contacting law enforcement, hid and defended perpetrators, and disregarded the testimony of children in an effort to protect an institution. This is yet another reminder that the “circle of secrecy” as described by Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his 2018 grand jury investigation is not only still being used, but is being used nationwide.
The report into Presentation High School showed that school leaders for years ignored the issue of sexual violence committed against its students. It also shows that school administrators failed in their duty to protect these girls from the 1980s until 2017 when an explosive op-ed was published in the Washington Post by a survivor of abuse at Presentation.
The sad fact is that this information about rampant abuse was only made public because of the work of survivors, not church leaders. Once again, despite promising to be open and honest about abuse, Catholic employees protected a school at the expense of children. This report and its alarming truth would never have happened without the bravery of victims like Kathryn Leehane who took the risk to write that column in the Washington Post. We applaud her bravery and the courage of other survivors who have been working to “Make Pres Safe.”
We are left wondering how many other stories just like this are unreported because the victims do not yet have their voices. If Presentation High School can successfully suppress reports as late as 2013, so can others.
The investigation at Presentation points out that its former principals did not “adequately investigate or act timely on information that may have led to more effective responses.” This is the same issue that has cropped up in Catholic institutions worldwide, where reputations and finances were placed above the safety of children. This disturbing pattern of inaction must be excised and the only way for this to happen is for crimes to be reported to the police and for criminal punishments to be handed down, not only on the abusers themselves but also on the supervisors who enabled and allowed the abuse to continue.
Presentation High School falls under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of San Jose. Bishop Oscar Cantu should use his power to clean house at Presentation, ensuring that anyone who was part of this inexcusable inaction is no longer working at the school. Wholesale change is necessary.
More importantly, we believe that Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Jose District Attorney Jeff Rosen should launch an investigation of their own into the abuses perpetrated and covered-up at Presentation High School. These crimes must be punished if they are ever to be stopped.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)