Lawyers Allege Presentation High 'Illegally' Paid to Silence Sexual Abuse Victim - NBC Bay Area
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Lawyers Allege Presentation High 'Illegally' Paid to Silence Sexual Abuse Victim

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lawyers Allege Presentation High “Illegally” Paid to Silence Sexual Abuse Victim

    After Grace Leonis spoke exclusively to NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit alleging she was sexually abused by a female water polo coach in 2013, when she was a 14-year-old freshman, attorney Robert Allard says the school didn’t just cover up the abuse, it pressured the Leonis family to sign an illegal confidentiality agreement as part of a settlement.

    (Published Friday, March 30, 2018)

    After Grace Leonis spoke exclusively to NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit alleging she was sexually abused by a female water polo coach in 2013, when she was a 14-year-old freshman, attorney Robert Allard says the school didn’t just cover up the abuse, it pressured the Leonis family to sign an illegal confidentiality agreement as part of a settlement.

    Allard did not disclose how much compensation the family received from the school as part of the agreement, but stated, “The money would never be enough to pay for Leonis’ future medical bills from the harm caused by the abuse.”

    “They wore Grace down, re-traumatized her to the point of a breakdown, and then coerced them into signing the agreement,” Allard stated in the press release.

    Allard is working pro bono to advise “Make Pres Safe,” an advocacy group created by former Presentation High graduates who accuse the school of a pattern of failing to report sexual misconduct and abuse allegations to authorities. He accuses school officials of trying to protect Presentation’s reputation instead of informing police about Roe’s “suspicious sexual grooming behavior.”

    NBC Bay Area’s investigation found three water polo players allege they reported to the school’s Athletic Director that Roe was sending Grace inappropriate sexual messages, nude photos, and spending excessive time alone with her, but school administrators never alerted police.

    In a statement released by Presentation High School spokesman Sam Singer, the school says the reports did not rise to the level of “any reasonable suspicion of abuse.”

    According to Allard, attorneys hired by the school had previous experience with these types of cases.

    “[The school] worked to cover up the subsequent sexual abuse by bringing in a lawyer who worked to settle clergy sex abuse cases confidentially in the early 2000’s,” the press release states.

    NBC Bay Area reviewed a copy of the settlement agreement, which was intended in part to ensure the Leonis family did not share any details of the alleged abuse. The agreement states, “For the breach [of the confidentiality agreement], the school will suffer irreparable harm for which damages would be an inadequate remedy, and for which the school will be entitle to immediate injunctive relieve in addition to compensatory damages.”

    In sharing her story with NBC Bay Area, it would appear Grace may have violated the terms of that agreement. However, Allard told NBC Bay Area the agreement was illegal because state law prohibits such confidentiality agreements involving potential sex crimes against children, and is therefore unenforceable.

    The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said it declined to file charges against Roe due to insufficient evidence. However, Grace says she’s been re-interviewed by detectives and sources tell NBC Bay Area the case is being examined again by police.

    Roe could not be reached for comment by NBC Bay Area.

    The San Jose Police Department says it’s currently investigating whether school officials violated mandated child abuse reporting laws, but declined to comment on the specifics of that investigation.

    Presentation High School on Friday released the following statement:

    Presentation is proud of its efforts to educate and protect the students who attend our high school from sexual misconduct.

    Our hearts go out to this young woman and her family. We are heartbroken at the distress and despair she has described. We commend her bravery for stepping forward and publically sharing her story.

    The latest report from NBC11 is factually incorrect and misleading.

    PHS has never asked that the details of the matter be kept private or confidential. The claims of this young woman and her parents were settled and resolved at a mediation supervised by a retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge. At all times the Leonis family was represented by legal counsel. After the mediation, the terms of the settlement were approved by the Superior Court. The terms of the agreement are, however, confidential as is typical in such agreements. However, Ms. Leonis has always been free to discuss the details of the incidents. As indicated, the school supports and commends the young woman for sharing her story.

    Lastly, it should also be noted that the timeline reported by NBC 11 is misleading and does not provide the full picture of this matter. The police investigated the claims at the time and no charges were brought against the school.

    PHS cannot disclose the details due to privacy restrictions; however it can confirm that the female water polo coach has not worked at the school since 2013.

    PHS would like to offer some other thoughts to the actions and claims by “Make Pres Safe:”

    --PHS has offered mediation to the members of “Make Pres Safe” and their attorney. The group finally accepted the offer and mediation is scheduled April 30, 2018. Presentation has agreed to pay the entire cost of mediation and has extended the mediation invitation to anyone feeling wronged by any of the alleged misconduct. PHS has reached out to “Make Pres Safe” and offered to meet in mediation with anyone who believes they have been a victim of sexual misconduct in the past.

    --PHS has been cooperating fully with the San Jose Police Department investigation into the claims made by the “Make Pres Safe” group and is confident that the police will conduct an independent investigation into these claims. PHS believes the police should do their own independent investigation without intimidation and harassment from “Make Pres Safe” leaders. It is concerning that “Make Pres Safe” is attempting to undertake its own investigation, instead of allowing the police to do their job.

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