In October 2017, Kathryn Leehane wrote an article, When the Legal System Fails Sexual Assault Victims, We Have to Find Our Own Closure, for the Washington Post. Leehane intended to highlight the broken legal system and sought to reassure other abuse survivors there are many ways to heal. (Note: This article is provided solely for contextual purposes; the author makes no money from clicks/views.)
Although no specifics were disclosed in the narrative, many people recognized the teacher and the school, and more victims of abuse have come forward. We’ve heard from dozens of people—victims, witnesses, teachers—and their reports of abuse and misconduct span decades. Here is a summary* of those accounts. (Click on the links for statements and documentation.)
1980 to 1990
- 1984: Spanish teacher John Fernandez has a bad reputation among the students. JaneA, age 14, is warned by older students about him. She knows specifically never to be alone with him.
- 1984-1986: Leslie Peddicord Gelfand (formerly JaneB), age 14-16, is repeatedly harassed by John Fernandez. Her parents report the abuse (inappropriate attention, touching, kissing, and gifts) via a letter to the administration. Principal Marian Stuckey doesn’t ask Leslie about the allegations, nor does CPS or law enforcement. John Fernandez is informed of the accusation and later confronts Leslie about the letter.
- 1987-1988: JaneC, age 15, quits the JV soccer team because of assistant coach John Fernandez’s sexual harassment. She sends a letter to the administration in 1991 describing the harassment, but does not receive a response.
1990 to 2000
- 1990: Jane Doe, age 16, is sexually assaulted by John Fernandez. Early in the school year, she tells her friend Cheryl Hodgin Marshall who reports to teacher Dina Garrett. Dina Garrett questions Jane Doe, and Jane Doe describes the assault to her. Jane Doe is later called into the principal Marian Stuckey’s office where she is questioned about the assault. Marian Stuckey sits inches from Jane Doe and suggests that perhaps Jane Doe dreamt the entire assault. Jane Doe leaves her office crying.
- Fall 1990: Cheryl Hodgin Marshall, age 17, works with Jane Doe, now age 17, to document the sexual assault on paper. They both go to Vice Principal Mary Miller (PHS ’72) to report the abuse again. Mary Miller reads the document and tells Jane Doe that unless she is willing to stand in a courtroom in front of John Fernandez and her family and repeat the words on the paper, she needs to stop talking about the incident. Jane Doe leaves her office crying.
- 1990 – 1998: Kathryn Leehane, age 17, is abused by John Fernandez and repeatedly reports the abuse to PHS and others. Another student also saw the pornographic picture.
- 1993: She reports the abuse (inappropriate touching, a kiss, and a pornographic photo) to the administration and receives no response.
- 1994: She sends now Principal Mary Miller a second letter outlining the abuse and other information, copies Vice Principal Dina Garrett and teacher Sharon Bouska, and receives a response from Mary Miller, asking for her permission to share her letter with John Fernandez. Kathryn responds, giving her explicit permission.
- 1996: After not hearing back from PHS and reading that John Fernandez is scheduled to chaperone a trip to Spain with PHS students, Kathryn sends another letter. The response she receives from Mary Miller prompts Kathryn to file a police report. The statute of limitations, however, has run out on the abuse, and the police are unable to pursue a criminal case.
- 1995-1996: John Fernandez is 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 meets with Mary Miller. In this meeting, Mary Miller says these are serious allegations against “the Teacher of the Year” and is visibly angry Kathryn has reported the incidents to the police, saying she feels like Kathryn “is working against her.” She then says she can only take action on the pornographic photograph and asks for a witness. Kathryn supplies the name of a witness, and as the meeting ends, the principal warns Kathryn to be careful with her public words so as not to face a libel suit. Kathryn sends a follow-up email and continues 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 receives an update from the principal after January 14th.
- 1999: Kathryn sends a letter to Linda Bearie at the Diocese of San Jose outlining three incidents of sexual abuse by John Fernandez: her own, JaneC’s and Jane Doe’s. She includes supporting documentation, but does not receive a response from the diocese.
- The PHS spokesperson admits to NBC Bay Area in 2017 that they never filed a CPS report about John Fernandez.
- 1991-1992: JaneE tells her religion teacher she is being sexually abused by someone outside of the school. Instead of reporting the abuse to law enforcement as required by law, the administration refers JaneE to a therapist.
- 1995-1996: JaneH is inappropriately touched by her math teacher multiple times. She and another student report the misconduct to a PHS dean. The teacher remains at the school, and the girls are never asked about the incident again, indicating no report to law enforcement was ever made.
2000 to 2010
- By the start the of the decade, multiple teachers and students report that at least four teachers engaged in sexual misconduct against students and that PHS wants all complaints to go to counseling then to the administration. Multiple teachers quit in protest of how these reports were mishandled by the administration.
- 2002-2003: A Community Involvement staff member makes romantic overtures to JaneF, a student enrolled in the club. JaneF reports his misconduct to the administration. JaneF’s friend, Ellen, describes this incident to NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit in 2017. The teacher leaves, comes back briefly (much to the surprise of his victim), and leaves again. Instead of contacting law enforcement as required by law, PHS hires a private investigator to conduct an investigation on him and another teacher. This same Community Involvement teacher chaperones a school-sponsored trip to Washington DC the summer following his departure and goes on to teach at a nearby school.
- 2002-2003: An English teacher is involved in sexual misconduct with JaneG who worked with him on the school newspaper. This teacher abruptly leaves Presentation and goes on to teach at a nearby school. Ellen also discusses this teacher with NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit in 2017.
- 2003-2004: At the beginning of the school year, Mary Miller leads an assembly where she lectures students about how disgraceful it is to their image as a community of girls to be discussing the sexual misconduct by former faculty, calling it gossip. She tells the students she is disgusted by their behavior and says that there has been an extensive investigation involving lawyers.
- 2003-2004: A theater director sexually assaults a 16-year-old student. Despite confessing to Mary Miller, he is allowed to quietly finish out the school year and teach during the summer session where he continues to engage in predatory behavior. He is able to move to another school because of his clean record and is later convicted of sex crimes at a school for children with disabilities.
- 2006-2007: Katharine, age 14, endures sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior from her math teacher all year long—even after the administration had received multiple complaints about the teacher.
- 2006-2007: Shelby Rusconi, age 14, endures sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior from her math teacher all year long—even after her mother complained to the administration. She transfers out of Presentation as a direct result.
- A long-term teacher reports in 2017 that from 1994 until 2013 the procedure for reporting allegations of abuse is not formally discussed. Teachers are expected to let the counseling department handle all concerns, even in the case of calling 911 for medical emergencies.
2010 to Present
- 2010: Kaitlyn McGrath, age 14, reports an off-campus assault to her counselor, but the counselor does not follow mandated reporting laws. Instead, the counselor tells the girl’s mother that she should ask her daughter about some unusual behavior and implies she is lying.
- 2013-2014: Grace Leonis, age 14, suffers sexual abuse and assault at the hands of her water polo coach—even after multiple reports are made to Principal Mary Miller, Athletic Director Stacey Mallison, Swim Coach Marisa Cozort, and Counselor Rosemarie Healy about the coach’s misconduct.
- 2016-2017: The entire administration receives complaints about a co-curricular coach’s misconduct, including allegations of inappropriate touching and behavior with a student.
- September 2016: Vice Principals Tim Case and Lisa Brunolli receive a report from a teacher about the coach’s suspected misconduct.
- March 2017: Mary Miller receives an email expressing concern about the coach’s behavior with the students. Mary Miller does not reply to the email. NBC Bay Area discusses that email on November 22nd.
- March 2017: Vice Principal Katherine Georgiev receives an email from a different person expressing concern about the same coach’s conduct with the students.
- November 2017: PHS places the coach on leave, doing so after the school is under the media microscope.
* Summary as of January 1, 2018. We have received several more reports of sexual abuse and violations of abuse reporting laws and will post them as soon as we can.
There is a lot of misinformation out there. Have a question or comment? Send us an email.