Dozens of people from Presentation High School—victims, witnesses, teachers, parents—have contacted us, and their reports of sexual abuse and misconduct span decades. We’re working with a retired San Jose Police Department Sergeant who specializes in sex crimes to conduct the interviews. Here is a sampling of those accounts, including statements and documentation. (Click to expand each decade.)
From 1970 to 1980
- 1977-1978: An English teacher had an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Her parents contacted the school, but nothing changed. [Witness statement]
From 1980 to 1990
- 1980-1982: Multiple girls were groomed and sexually assaulted by their Spanish teacher (NOT John Fernandez). The administration knew but did not contact the police.
- 1984-1986: Leslie Peddicord Gelfand, age 14-16, was repeatedly subjected to sexual misconduct by John Fernandez. Her parents reported the sexual abuse (inappropriate attention, touching, kissing, and gifts) via a letter to the administration. Principal Marian Stuckey never replied to the letter nor did she or any investigator ask Leslie about the allegations. John Fernandez was informed of the accusations and later confronted Leslie about the letter. [Leslie’s video statement and written statement]
- 1987-1988: A 15-year-old girl quit the JV soccer team because of coach John Fernandez’s sexual misconduct. She sent a letter to Marian Stuckey in 1991 describing the inappropriate behavior, but never received a response. [Victim’s statement]
From 1990 to 2000
- 1990: 16-year-old Jane Doe was sexually assaulted by her Spanish teacher, John Fernandez.
- Jane Doe told Cheryl Hodgin Marshall who notified their teacher. That teacher questioned Jane Doe, and Jane Doe described the sexual assault to her. Instead of contacting the police, that teacher notified Principal Marian Stuckey.
- Instead of contacting the police, Marian Stuckey called Jane Doe’s parents to her office. Jane Doe was then called into Marian Stuckey’s office where she was questioned about the sexual assault. Marian Stuckey sat inches from Jane Doe and suggested that perhaps Jane Doe dreamt the entire assault. Jane Doe left her office crying.
- Jane Doe then worked with Cheryl Hodgin Marshall to document the sexual assault on paper. They both went to Vice Principal Mary Miller to report the abuse again. Mary Miller read the document and told Jane Doe that unless she was willing to stand in a court of law in front of John Fernandez and her family and repeat the words on the paper, she needed to stop talking about the incident. Jane Doe left her office crying. [Victim’s statement and Cheryl’s statement]
- 1990 – 1998: 17-year-old Kathryn Alderete Leehane was inappropriately touched and shown pornography by her Spanish teacher, John Fernandez. [Kathryn’s statement]
- 1993: She reported the sexual abuse to Marian Stuckey and received no response.
- 1994: She sent newly appointed Principal Mary Miller a second letter outlining the abuse and other information, copied the Vice Principal and a teacher. Instead of contacting law enforcement, Mary Miller wrote back asking for Kathryn’s permission to share her letter with John Fernandez. Kathryn responded, giving her explicit permission.
- 1996: After not hearing back from PHS and reading that John Fernandez was scheduled to chaperone a trip to Spain with PHS students, Kathryn sent another letter. The response she received from Mary Miller prompted Kathryn to file a police report. The statute of limitations, however, had run out on the abuse, and the police were unable to pursue a criminal case.
- 1995-1996: John Fernandez was awarded “Teacher of the Year” despite the administration having received reports from multiple students that he abused them. He was later publicly honored multiple times after he retired and died (on the PHS website and in the PHS magazine).
- 1997: Kathryn met with Mary Miller. In this meeting, Mary Miller said these were serious allegations against “the Teacher of the Year” and was visibly angry Kathryn had reported the abuse to the police, saying she felt like Kathryn “was working against her.” She then said she could only take action on the pornographic photograph and asked for a witness. Kathryn supplied the name of a witness, and as the meeting ended, the principal warned Kathryn to be careful with her public words so as not to face a libel suit. Kathryn sent a follow-up email and continued to ask for updates and supply contact information for the witness via email on December 4th, December 8th, December 9th, and January 5th, 1998. She never received an update from the principal after January 14th.
- 1999: Kathryn sent a letter to Linda Bearie at the Diocese of San Jose outlining three incidents of sexual abuse by John Fernandez, including her own and Jane Doe’s. She included supporting documentation and left a followup voice mail message, but never received a response from the diocese.
- The PHS spokesperson admitted to NBC Bay Area that they never filed a CPS report about John Fernandez.
- 1991-1992: A Freshman girl told her religion teacher she was being sexually abused by someone outside of the school. Instead of reporting the abuse to law enforcement as required by law, the administration called the girl’s parents to give a referral to a therapist.
- 1995-1996: A 15-year-old girl was inappropriately touched by her math teacher multiple times. She and another student reported the misconduct to a PHS dean. The girls were never asked about the incident again by anyone.
From 2000 to 2010
- 2003-2004: A 16-year-old girl was propositioned and inappropriately touched by the Community Involvement Director. The victim and Ellen Bailey reported his misconduct to Mary Miller. The teacher left, came back briefly (much to the surprise of his victim), and left again. No CPS report was filed, and he secured work at a nearby school. Multiple teachers quit at the end of the school year protesting how the sexual abuse report was mishandled by the administration. [Ellen’s video statement]
- 2003-2004: An English teacher, who was recently awarded “Teacher of the Year,” drugged and sexually assaulted a teenage girl who worked with him on the school newspaper. This teacher abruptly left Presentation and went on to teach at a nearby school. No CPS report was filed. [Ellen’s video statement]
- 2003-2004: Mary Miller led an assembly where she lectured students about how disgraceful it was to their image as a community of girls to be discussing the sexual misconduct by former faculty, calling it gossip. She told the students she was disgusted by their behavior and said that there had been an extensive investigation involving lawyers. [Witness statement]
- 2003-2004: Theater director, Jeff Hicks, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old student.
- Jeff Hicks confessed to Mary Miller that he had sexually abused the student. Instead of calling the authorities, Mary Miller called the victim’s parents into her office where she told them to ask their daughter whether she was willing to stand in a court of law and explain everything that happened. Jeff Hicks was allowed to finish the school year and teach during the summer session where he continued to engage in predatory behavior. [Parent’s interview]
- Mary Miller rehired Jeff Hicks in 2013; however, parents, teachers, and alums protested until the offer was rescinded.
- Because of his clean record, Jeff Hicks was able to get a job at Stanbridge Academy, a school for children with disabilities and was later convicted of sex crimes. He is now a lifetime registered sex offender.
- 2006-2007: 14-year-old Katharine told her counselor that her math teacher was inappropriately touching her and engaging in sexual misconduct. The counselor informed her she was not the first to complain about the teacher and to wait out the year—but she didn’t file a CPS report. The math teacher was allowed to finish the school year, and multiple girls endured harassment and abuse until he left. [Katharine’s statement]
- 2006-2007: 14-year-old Shelby Rusconi and her mother, Connie Rusconi, complained to Mary Miller that her math teacher was engaging in sexual misconduct and inappropriately touching students. Mary Miller dismissed the mother’s complaint and allowed the teacher to finish the school year. [Shelby’s statement]
- MaryJane Perryman, a long-term teacher, reported that from 1994 until 2013 the procedure for reporting allegations of abuse was not formally discussed. Teachers were expected to let the counseling department handle all concerns, even in the case of calling 911 for medical emergencies. [MaryJane’s statement]
From 2010 to Present
- 2010: 14-year-old Kaitlin McGrath reported an off-campus rape to her counselor. Instead of calling the police as required by law, the counselor called the girl’s mom and told her to talk to her daughter about unusual behavior and implied Kaitlin was lying. [Kaitlin’s video statement and written statement]
- 2013-2014: Multiple students reported inappropriate behavior—including excessive attention, touching, sexually-explicit texts, nude photos, and a declaration of love—by their water polo coach toward 14-year-old Grace Leonis. The coach remained on staff despite reports to the athletic director, the swim coach, and Mary Miller. The coach later sexually assaulted Grace. No one from PHS filed a CPS report. [Grace’s interview]
- 2016-2017: The administration received multiple complaints about a co-curricular coach’s sexual misconduct, including allegations of inappropriate touching and behavior with a student, but did not contact police as required by law. (Mandated reporters must file a report within 36 hours of receiving information.) In March 2017, Mary Miller received an email from a chaperone expressing concern about the coach’s behavior with the students. Mary Miller did not reply to the email. NBC Bay Area discussed that email in a news report. In November 2017, PHS placed the coach on leave, doing so after the school was under the media microscope.
Help us stop decades of misconduct at Presentation High School!
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