SFUSD Responds to Sexual Assault Allegations at GWHS

By Thomas K. Pendergast

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) filed documents in civil court on Dec. 16 responding to allegations made by two women who claim they were sexually abused as students by former George Washington High School Athletic Director Lawrence Young-Yet Chan.

Named in court documents as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, the lawsuit alleges that the victims were “repeatedly groomed and sexually abused as minors” by Chan, from 2012 to 2016, while they were students at the high school.

Another allegation included in the lawsuit is that, in 2017, Jane Doe 1 reported the abuse to the San Francisco Police Department, at which time the district allowed Chan to “quietly resign via a confidential settlement agreement wherein Chan agreed not to seek or request employment references from (the) district, and the district agreed not to release Chan’s personnel file unless required to do so by law or official request. The settlement agreement essentially allowed Chan to seek future employment working elsewhere with children.”

Examples of the alleged grooming behavior including buying them gifts and meals, plus allowing them to drive his car to and from school during school hours.

One incident in the lawsuit alleges that Chan asked Jane Doe 1’s teacher to excuse her from class and have her report to his office, then Chan took her to a locker room where he sexually assaulted her before sending her back to class.

“Jane Doe 1’s teacher thought the behavior was odd and was hesitant to allow Jane Doe 1 to leave class but allowed it to happen and took no action to report it,” according to the lawsuit.

In another incident, Chan is alleged to have requested that Jane Doe 2 come to his office to ice a sports injury and then took her to a storage room where he sexually assaulted her. Furthermore, Chan “introduced Jane Doe 2 to his brother, representing that his brother was a gang member that sex trafficked minor females. Jane Doe 2 was scared that if she disclosed the abuse, Chan’s brother would harm her.”

The lawsuit names the district as a defendant as well, claiming negligence in “the hiring, supervision and retention of Chan.”

“As minors and students enrolled at George Washington High School, (the) district stood in a special relationship with plaintiffs Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 by which (the) district owed them a duty to protect them against … sexual abuse by an employee during school hours on school grounds.

George Washington High School was the scene of elleged grooming and sexual assault of two minors between 2012 and 2016, according to a lawsuit filed in civil court. SFUSD recently filed documents responding to the allegations. Photo by Thomas K. Pendergast.

“Plaintiffs were entitled to a reasonably safe environment in which to learn, free from inappropriate exercise of authority over their persons, grooming behaviors, inappropriate touching and sexual behaviors from educators, staff and others employed in a position of trust and authority over them at said school. As such, (the) district’s employees owed plaintiffs a duty of care to properly screen personnel, supervise personnel, and discipline personnel who present a risk of harm to students.”

The suit claims the district failed to properly screen Chan, supervise him and discipline him for his grooming behaviors.

In their response to the lawsuit allegations, the district argues that “to prevail on a negligent hiring/retention claim, Jane Doe 2 is required to prove that … the district knew or should have known that Chan was likely to engage in sexual abuse.”

The district response notes that Chan is alleged to have sexually abused Jane Doe 2 from 2012 to 2013, and sexually abused Jane Doe 1 from 2012 to 2016 while they were both students at the school.

“To prevail on a negligent supervision claim, Jane Doe 2 is required to show that the district knew or should have known from past behavior or other factors of Chan’s alleged misconduct and/or his propensity to sexually abuse students. A negligent supervision claim also depends on a showing that the risk of harm was reasonably foreseeable.

“A school district is liable for negligent supervision if it negligently exposed (the) plaintiff to a foreseeable danger of molestation. The complaint does not allege any acts showing that the district knew or should have known that Chan was likely to engage in sexual abuse or that a risk of harm to Jane Doe 2 was reasonably foreseeable.

“The complaint alleges that Chan sexually abused Jane Doe 2 in the back storage room and/or his office, without any reference to any district employee being aware of such abuse. The complaint does not allege any details as to exact time frames as to when the incident occurred. There is nothing in the complaint that indicates that the district would have suspected that Chan was engaging in inappropriate behavior, particularly towards Jane Doe 2,” the district argues.

“Therefore, the complaint is devoid of facts that would have placed the district on notice of Chan’s behavior towards Jane Doe 2, such as that the district exposed Jane Doe 2 to a foreseeable risk of harm.

In a statement released to and reported upon by KRON 4 news last August, after the first lawsuit was filed regarding allegations involving Jane Doe 1, the district reportedly said:

“SFUSD takes allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse very seriously. When these claims were reported to SFUSD, we immediately launched an investigation and placed the employee on leave. Throughout the investigation, the district fully cooperated with law enforcement.

“The person has not been employed with the SFUSD since Aug. 30, 2017. Per district protocol, this employee – like all volunteers and staff – had undergone fingerprinting and a criminal background check.”

Attempts to contact Chan for comment or a response to these allegations for this article were not successful.

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