San Jose Catholic Girls School under Fire for Allegedly Mishandling Sexual Abuse Allegations Decades Ago
By Tracey Kaplan
November 7, 2017
A private Catholic girls school in San Jose is grappling with accusations from a graduate who said a longtime teacher who has since died sexually molested her and another student decades ago but never was held accountable.
In an essay published in the Washington Post, Kathryn Leehane described her frustration after she reported to school officials and police that a teacher had sexually molested her and another student.
“The teacher remained at the school,” wrote Leehane, who did not name the teacher or the school. “Eventually, I lost hope for justice.”
The essay, titled “When the Legal System Fails Sexual Assault Victims, We Have To Find Our Own closure,” prompted graduates of the school Monday to circulate an online petition on change.org to Presentation High School. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 1,900 people had signed it.
The unnamed authors of the petition are demanding an independent investigation and a public apology. They also want officials who were told about the allegations but did not take appropriate action to face “consequences.”
“We are outraged by the apparent lack of response by the Presentation administration once charges of abuse were reported to Marian Stuckey and Mary Miller beginning in 1990,” the petition states. Miller is the current principal and Stuckey is a former principal.
Miller did not respond to a request for comment, and Stuckey declined to comment.
But Miller sent a letter to parents Friday, acknowledging that an investigation into the allegations was conducted about 25 years ago. She did not name the teacher and said she was not permitted to say more because she was bound by rules regarding confidentiality.
“The details of the graduate’s experience are disturbing, hurtful, and concerning, and I am deeply
saddened by her account,” Miller wrote in the letter to parents. “As educators and fierce advocates of women’s rights, we take the allegations made against a former, now deceased, employee extremely seriously. Presentation High School unequivocally condemns the type of conduct described in this complaint.”
Miller added that the school’s board “has reviewed the details of the investigation and have been very supportive of the efforts of the administration to address concerns and has full confidence in the ability of the administration to continue to provide a safe environment for all students.”
The Post published the essay as a tsumami of stories about sexual assault and harassment that began with revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein continues to have national and international repercussions. It also follows a public uproar that began last summer, after a judge sentenced former Stanford athlete Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated woman. The woman’s victim impact statement to the court ignited a national outcry against “rape culture,” prompted new state laws and launched a recall movement against the sentencing judge, Aaron Persky.
“The dam has finally burst and we are experiencing a national inflection point on sexual harassment and rape,” said Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, leader of the recall campaign. “Victims are rising up and demanding an end to the culture of impunity for high–status offenders and those who enable them. Names are going to be named, enablers are going to lose jobs and elections and it is about time.”
Leehane, a Bay Area writer and humorist, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She wrote that the teacher groped her left breast and on a second occasion, showed her a photo he had taken of a woman wearing nothing except an open fur coat.
Leehane said she had never shaken the memory of the teacher’s behavior, writing that the encounters “played on an endless loop, and I felt dirty used and helpless.” But at the time, she buried her secret until a classmate confided in her a couple of years later that the same man assaulted her. When that classmate told school officials, however, “they scared her into taking back the story,” she wrote.
Leehane then wrote a letter to the new administration at some point in the 1990s, hoping for justice. But she said she heard nothing and the teacher remained at school. Leehane also called police, but the investigation stalled when the classmate, rebuffed by the school administration, declined to talk to a detective, she wrote.
Several months later, the detective called Leehane to say there was nothing more he could do, adding that he hoped she could find closure some other way. Leehane wrote that women have been sharing their stories to heal and feel less alone, but that is not enough.
“We call ourselves survivors instead of victims to try to regain a little power over our narratives,” she wrote. “Perhaps if our abusers were held accountable and punished, and if we weren’t questioned and blamed for our abuse, we might not feel the need to relabel ourselves.”