A former Los Gatos High School star athlete responds to an NBC Bay Area investigation claiming she was sexually assaulted on campus years ago and the school failed to protect her.
Former Los Gatos High School star athlete and sports presenter Heather Hennessey speaks out against her allegations of school abuse in the late 1990s.
“I have suffered in silence for so long,” said Hennessey.
Hennessey says a student rally last summer and the recent two-part report from the school’s #MeToo Movement Investigation Unit encouraged her to go public with her allegations of sexual abuse by the school. former Los Gatos High School track coach Chioke Robinson. The abuse happened when she was a high school student between 1998 and 1999, she said.
In a lawsuit filed last month, Hennessey said Robinson “has been sexually assaulted on multiple occasions [her,] try to touch her [inappropriately] on the LGHS campus. She said Robinson had followed her from Archbishop Mitty High School to Los Gatos High School (LGHS). She left Mitty, she said, trying to escape Robinson. The Diocese of San Jose, which oversees Mitty, said in a previous report that it takes all allegations of abuse seriously and supports victim-survivors.
Reacting to the Unit’s report on a recent wave of complaints of sexual assault and harassment of students by current and former LGHS students, Hennessey said she was upset “this [LGHS] culture still exists.
Specifically, Hennessey says the school does not believe in and protect students who make complaints of sexual abuse. She says school officials failed to protect her when she reported Robinson’s abuse to her boss.
“I reported to my head track coach [Robinson’s supervisor] that I had been mistreated and that he had concealed it, ”she said. “He told me my career would be ruined. That I couldn’t continue to attend USC – using fear tactics to silence myself.
Some 20 years later, in 2019, Robinson was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting at least three other girls. Robinson has pleaded not guilty and is on bail pending legal proceedings. The former LGHS head coach never responded to requests for comment from the Investigation Unit.
Hennessey is not the only former Los Gatos High School student to have alleged abuse by Robinson on the LGHS campus. Jane Doe – whose real name is not identified in court documents – is also suing Los Gatos – Saratoga High School District. Lawyer Lauren Cerri is representing Doe in his lawsuit against the district.
“So when I saw [the Investigative Unit’s] report … and I saw these statements [by the superintendent] “It’s one of the hardest things for school districts to manage… when it happens off campus. “Well, you don’t even handle it appropriately when it’s happening on campus,” Cerri said.
Robinson is identified but not named as a defendant in the Hennessey lawsuit. He did not comment on Hennessey’s claims.
Robinson is named in Doe’s case. A lawyer representing him in this lawsuit sent a statement that reads in full:
“Mr. Robinson was surprised and devastated by the allegations and categorically professes his innocence. He has been a coach and mentor of all ages, genders and backgrounds, and a mainstay of the community for nearly 20 years. Each time an indemnity pecuniary is potential, it calls into question the motivations of the claimants. There has been a one-sided narrative portrayed throughout this process. We ask the media not to present a one-sided story as a fact. We expect the The trial sheds light on his innocence and these unilateral allegations. The law and the presumption of innocence must be respected in order for there to be fairness and justice. “
Cerri also represented Audrie Pott’s family. Pott was the sophomore from Saratoga High School who committed suicide in 2012 after three male students sexually assaulted her at a party and were allowed to return to campus.
Saratoga High School and Los Gatos High School are in the same school district. Like other federally funded institutions, the district must follow Title IX of the laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual harassment, including rape.
Los Gatos – Saratoga High School District did not have a Title IX coordinator when he received a Title IX complaint in August 2020. He hired an outside law firm to handle the case. The cabinet determined that the accused student and the school did not violate Title IX laws, according to investigative documents obtained by the Investigation Unit.
The district has since hired Title IX coordinator Megan Farrell, whose LinkedIn profile shows she started the position in December 2020.
“How is it possible that they just appointed a Title IX coordinator,” Cerri said.
School district superintendent Mike Grove said he could not comment on the ongoing civil lawsuits. In previous statements, he said the district has expanded staff training and student counseling. In August 2020, the school board approved the hiring of Hirschfeld Kraemer law firm to conduct an independent investigation into broader allegations of school culture and student sexual abuse.
The Investigation Unit learned that company investigators are not getting as much input from students as they had hoped. In an email, Grove wrote, “The reasons for the low turnout… are unknown,” but could be due to a lack of in-person schooling. Several students tell the Investigation Unit that they do not trust the investigation or the sincerity of the district. A student quoted Grove’s email last month to parents saying that student sexual misconduct is “not a pervasive problem in [the] District.”
“The way Heather’s case was handled, the way my client’s case was handled is exactly the same as the girls are being treated now,” Cerri said. “It sends a message that they cannot speak.”
Farrell provided the Investigation Unit with the following statement on Monday morning:
“I would like to let Ms. Hennessy and Ms. Doe know that we hear them, and our thoughts are with them.
As you know, all of the alleged events that gave rise to Chioke Robinson’s trial occurred before the current district leadership team was in place. Nonetheless, our team has made educating our students and protecting them from sexual misconduct / assault one of our top priorities. “
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter for NBC Bay Area. To contact her about this story or others, send an email [email protected].