San Jose Catholic school releases sex abuse report, apologizes ‘with heavy hearts’

The Mercury News

July 11, 2020

By John Woolfolk

‘Good faith belief’ six former Presentation High staff members abused girls

Nearly three years after a former student exposed sex abuse complaints dating back decades at San Jose’s Presentation High School for girls, its leaders released a damning outside investigation Thursday that found administrators failed to seriously pursue credible allegations against six former staffers.

Investigators the school hired in September found sufficient information “to form a good faith belief that sexual misconduct or abuse occurred by five former faculty members and one former coach” for conduct that took place from the early 1980s to 2013, the school’s president and board chair said in a statement.

“It is with heavy hearts that we are writing to you today to share the results of the investigation,” wrote Holly Elkins, Presentation’s president, and Sister Pam Chiesa, who chairs the schools board of directors. “To the survivors of abuse, we deeply and sincerely apologize. The stark truth is that our school did not live up to its commitment to protect you. We added further harm when we responded defensively when reports of past abuse began to surface in 2017.”

The report drew praise from Kathryn Leehane, who graduated from the school in 1991, disclosed abuse by her former Spanish teacher in a guest column for the Washington Post in 2017 and led other alleged victims in a campaign to hold the school’s leaders accountable.

“I am incredibly satisfied with their response,” Leehane said Thursday. “Holly Elkins’ compassionate and moral leadership is exactly what the school needed.”

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