What’s happening at Los Gatos High School?
It’s a serious question facing the school and school district after an outpouring of mostly off-campus sexual misconduct allegations on social media by current and former students.
It started with Mia Lozoya.
“I was raped,” Lozoya told the Investigative Unit.
Lozoya was a freshman at Los Gatos High School (LGHS) in February 2020 when she says she had drinks at a house with an upperclassman.
“One thing led to another, and I was begging him to stop. He wouldn’t,” she said. “I just vividly remember closing my eyes so tight and just waiting for it to be over, and my head was just hitting a wall.”
“He dropped me off at the end of the street,” she said.
According to court documents, Lozoya reported to police she'd been with her alleged abuser before, but this time she didn't consent and told him to stop. Sexual assault is defined as any sexual contact where the victim does not provide clear consent.
Lozoya stopped going to school. She couldn’t sleep. She finally broke down and told her mother later that month, she said.
She and her parents went to police and filed a report with the Los Gatos–Saratoga Union High School District under Title IX.
Title IX is a law prohibiting sex discrimination at federally funded schools requiring the institutions to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
Lozoya and her parents say school officials were not ready for her Title IX case.
The school district did not have a Title IX coordinator at the time and hired Hirschfeld Kraemer, an outside law firm, to help. The person from the firm treated Lozoya insensitively, she said, causing her to emotionally shut down. The high school freshman said she was listed as “uncooperative.”
The school district completed the Title IX investigation. The investigator concluded the school, school district and accused student were not at fault for any Title IX violation, according to Lozoya’s family. They were appalled by the findings, they told NBC Bay Area.
Superintendent Mike Grove wrote in an email, “We take allegations of sexual harassment or assault seriously and do everything we can within the law to appropriately investigate situations, to support students, and to educate our student and staff about these issues.”
Lozoya and her family also learned prosecutors declined to charge her alleged abuser citing a lack of evidence.
“I just remember feeling so broken,” Lozoya said. “I knew I wasn’t alone.”
In June 2020, Lozoya shared her experience on Instagram. Her post led to a movement.
The movements started with fellow students and former students – like Abbi Berry, Sophie Adams and Sasha Ryu – forming the group From Survivors For Survivors and creating the @MeTooLGHS Instagram page. On the page, dozens of other current and former LGHS teens have shared similar stories of sexual misconduct they say occurred at the hands of other students.
Some of the stories are from decades ago, but most are from the last several years.
This grassroot student movement also prompted a rally and even a documentary.
According to Los Gatos–Saratoga Union High School District, it’s received only four reports of student sex assault in the past five years, which includes incidents from its other high school in Saratoga.
The number of reports may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, teens who lived in different households were discouraged to gather in groups. And, regardless of when as assault happened, youth counseling non-profit CASSY says students likely faced more barriers reporting in the last year.
“Since we’re not physically on campus, that referral has not been happening as aggressively,” said Marico Sayoc, CASSY’s executive director and Los Gatos’ mayor.
Sayoc said it’s possible there are more incidents than the ones being reported through the @MeTooLGHS Instagram page.
Tracking Student Sex Assaults
Tracking student-involved sex assaults is challenging. The Investigative Unit found many Bay Area school districts track incidents involving their students, but some don’t or just started. Our team also couldn’t find an organization compiling comprehensive data from different sources like police and schools. In fact, one school district said, “authorities are under no obligation to notify the school.”
Superintendet Grove wrote in an email to NBC Bay Area off-campus crimes are “one of the greatest challenges a school or district faces.”
And there are cases where alleged victims don’t immediately come forward, like Lyssa Broomfield.
Broomfield was a freshman at LGHS in 2015 when she was sexually assaulted by a junior who was her neighbor, she said.
“I was 14. I had maybe drank like once or twice and I was not okay,” she said. “[A friend and I] went to his house … then my mind [went] black, everything went black. I pretty much woke up to him raping me in his mother’s bedroom, and I was frozen and crying.”
Broomfield said she woke up the next morning in her own bed.
“Me just trying to figure out what happened, I went and knocked on his door and yelled at him, ‘What did you do last night?’ And he grabbed me and pinned me down to the couch,” Broomfield said. “I punched him in the nose as hard as I could, and it started gushing blood.”
Broomfield said she didn’t feel safe enough to report her assault. She kept silent for more than two years. During that time, she developed multiple disorders and became suicidal.
“I didn’t think there was any way anyone would believe me,” Broomfield said.
She attempted to kill herself twice, she said.
Unaware of the source of his daughter’s mental decline, but clear something was wrong, Lyssa’s father Scott Broomfield left his job as a board trustee for Los Gatos’ K-8 school district and moved with his daughter out of Los Gatos.
Lyssa Broomfield eventually told her father. By then she was no longer an LGHS student. She and her father still filed a police report, and after about six months prosecutors declined to press charges citing a lack of evidence.
The Investigative Unit reached out to the families of both Lozoya’s and Broomfield’s alleged abusers. One did not respond and the other had no comment.
“I will forever be indebted to Mia, Abbi and my daughter and the many others that have shown me this truth,” Scott Broomfield said.
School Districts Respond to Student Sex Assaults Differently
The Investigative Unit reached out to 50 Bay Area K-12 school districts asking for their policies surrounding on and off-campus student misconduct. We found schools respond to reported sex assaults differently. Some say – whether the incident was on or off-campus – they have policies to hold abusers accountable. Most though, including Los Gatos–Saratoga Union High School District, said if the misconduct happened off-campus, the situation is out of their hands.
These school districts cite California’s Education Code, which says schools can only discipline students for school-related misconduct. Until Title IX, which is a federal law, schools can take some action on off-campus incidents if it has a subsequent impact at school.
For Lozoya, Los Gatos High School offered to change her schedule so she wouldn’t see her alleged abuser.
“I just remember feeling so broken and even more scared, not even for myself, but for other girls,” she said.
The School District’s Response
Superintendent Grove and his staff declined multiple requests for an interview with the Investigative Unit.
In emails, Grove said the district has taken action by hiring a Title IX coordinator last year, launching an independent inquiry and expanding student counseling. He emphasized – the school’s jurisdiction is limited when alleged misconduct occurs off-campus.
In a mass email to staff and parents before the release of this NBC Bay Area investigation, Grove detailed more prevention efforts by the school district. He also provided this pre-recorded video of their new Title IX coordinator.
- For more on this investigation, including victim and family resources, visit our #MeTooLGHS page.
But when students found guilty of abuse are allowed back on campus – like in the 2012 sex assault and suicide of Saratoga High School student Audrie Pott – #MeTooLGHS organizers say it sends a harmful message.
In part 2 of NBC Bay Area’s investigation, the Investigative Unit digs into concerns of missteps by the school district in the Pott case and why her family says that may have set the stage for what’s happening now at Los Gatos High School.
Part 2 of Investigation: Los Gatos High School Scandal Impacted by Audrie Pott Case, Family Says
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit. Email her about this story or others at firstname.lastname@example.org.