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Former Santa Cruz teacher investigated for sexual misconduct claims out of San Jose

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Presentation High School

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION and KPIX) Officials at Presentation High School in San Jose has released a report about an investigation into past sex abuse claims at the school, and one of the teachers under investigation later worked at Kirby School in Santa Cruz.

Allegations against former teachers started when Presentation High graduate Kathryn Leehane wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post accusing a former Spanish teacher of sexual abuse in 2017, according to the report. During the investigation, five former faculty members and a former coach were accused of sexual misconduct or abuse that ranged from grooming students to touching and inappropriate fraternization.

The former faculty members and coach are listed as:

  • John Fernandez, Foreign Language teacher and coach
  • Peggy Orozco, English teacher
  • Jeff House, English and Journalism teacher
  • Kris White, Religion teacher and Community Involvement Coordinator
  • Jenna Roe, Assistant Varsity Water Polo Coach
  • Dave Garbo, English teacher

None of the people accused currently works at Presentation High School.

One of the accused, Jeff House, worked for Kirby School in Santa Cruz after his time at Presentation High School. House is facing allegations of inappropriate grooming and non-consensual sexual misconduct.

A former student who attended the school between 1998 and 2000 said House behaved inappropriately during her sophomore year of high school. She said House gave her A's, no matter what she turned in, and she said he also sent personal emails on weekends and wrote an inappropriate message in her yearbook.

The message included in the report says, "Okay, apparently nothing I think matters to you anyway, so have fun at that other place while I gaze wistfully at the desk only slightly to my right (heavy sigh here). Well, you could at least email [email address redacted] or call when you’re REALLY bored [phone number redacted]. Other than that… Ahh hell, I’m gonna miss you. Love, JH."

She said when her mother heard about what happened, the student left the school and said she believed her mother talked to the Head of School at the time, Mary Miller. She said she believed her mother told Miller about the messages, but that Miller did not ask for more information. Miller denied meeting with the student's mother or being aware of any concerns.

A witness spoke on behalf of another former student, saying House invited her to his house, gave her alcohol and cannabis and sexually assaulted her in 2002 or 2003. She was a freshman in college at the time.

After the incident, the witness said the former student sent a "cautionary email" to the witness and another friend and classmate describing what happened. The witnesses said they went to Miller and told her what happened. Miller allegedly said the matter "would be taken care of."

Miller said in the report that House left the school for unrelated reasons, but said she was aware of a sexual relationship between House and the former student. She said it was the former student who reported it and said it was consensual.

The student later said the story "morphed" to include drugs and lack of consent. Miller said she probably should have conducted an investigate it, but did not because the student was already 18 years old and the student had asked her not to tell anyone.

According to the report, three witnesses said they heard rumors that House dated students. A staff member also said she thought House was a "creep" and saw him having an intimate conversation with a student in a parking lot.

The report concluded that House showed favoritism and had a sexual relationship with a student shortly after graduation, but could not find evidence to support that it was non-consensual. Because of how soon it happened after graduation, the report said House may have groomed her or crossed other boundaries.

The report also found that Miller was aware of the sexual relationship, but did not investigate or report it.

When asked about House, Kirby released a statement saying that the school is taking the allegations very seriously.

A spokesperson for Kirby School said they have not received any reports of misconduct from the teacher's time there, but they hired an investigator to conduct an independent inquiry.

"We are concerned by the recent report produced by Presentation High School that identifies a number of its former employees believed to have engaged in sexual misconduct towards its students. One of the named individuals was subsequently employed as a teacher at Kirby School. Though this individual has not been employed at Kirby School since October 2015, we are deeply committed to our past and present students’ health, safety and well-being, which is why we are taking these allegations very seriously.

"While we are not aware of any such misconduct by our former employee, out of an abundance of caution, we have hired an external investigator to conduct an independent inquiry into any potential past incidents of sexual misconduct while this person was an employee at our school. We will be following up with our community after the investigation concludes and will provide a statement then."

Kirby School

Officials at Presentation High School said they have shared the report with law enforcement, the San Jose Diocese, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the survivors of abuse and anyone who currently employs one of the people accused, according to the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area.

Read the full report outlining the allegations and independent investigation below.

Crime / Education / Santa Clara County / Santa Cruz / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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