Former Leland High Student Sues SJUSD for Allegedly Mishandling Her Sexual Assault Claim

San Jose Unified School District has been caught in the crosshairs of a lawsuit over the way it handled a sexual assault complaint filed by former female student.

“Jane L.C. Doe”—the anonymous plaintiff who attended Leland and Pioneer high schools in 2017 and filed the civil case in Santa Clara County Superior Court this past spring—accuses district officials of negligence and intentionally inflicting emotional distress after she reported being sexually assaulted by a classmate.

The lawsuit describes how in September 2017, Doe was molested by a classmate at a mutual friend’s house. “[A]s the evening progressed, she became tired, laid down and fell asleep on a couch at the residence; that she awoke to her clothing having been removed from her lower body by a fellow classmate at Leland High School on top of her with his fingers inside her,” the claim states.

The following month, Doe says she became the “target of of ongoing harassment, bullying and intimidation by the assailant and his friends.”

An unnamed student reportedly alerted Leland High administrators, prompting Assistant Principal Mary Ann Dougherty to call Doe into her office. A San Jose police officer was also present, according to the lawsuit, but Dougherty allegedly refused to let Doe bring a parent to the meeting.

“Dougherty demanded that plaintiff discuss the sexual assault with her and the police officer, at which time Dougherty refused to allow plaintiff’s mother to be present, despite plaintiff requesting her presence, and proceeded to ask accusatory questions and infer that plaintiff was not remembering things accurately, that she was not sexually assaulted and/or that she had brought the sexual assault upon herself,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Dougherty justified questioning Doe without a legal guardian present because the girl “was the victim and not her mother.”

Still, Doe continued to talk freely with the vice principal about the harassment she endured. She “disclosed to Dougherty that the assailant and his friends who were harassing, bullying and intimidating her were students at Leland High School, including some who were in her individual classes, and provided Dougherty with the names,” according to the lawsuit’s summary of the meeting.

Doe also told the vice principal that the alleged assailant took photographs and video of her naked body without her permission. When the victim told that part to Dougherty, according to the lawsuit, the vice principal responded by admonishing the girl.

“Be careful what you say,” Dougherty reportedly cautioned, telling the girl that she may get “in trouble” for accusing the alleged assailant of having illicit images.

Dougherty allegedly told Doe to “be careful what you say” when she revealed the assailant had naked photographs and videos of her. (Source: Jane L.C. Doe vs. San Jose Unified School District)

After that meeting, Doe says the assistant principal did nothing to prevent the accused assailant and his friends from continuing to harass her.

“The assailant and his friends remained in plaintiff’s classes, continued to attend classes without repercussions, and were allowed access to their phones and the school’s WiFi networks all while continuing to sexually harass, bully and intimidate plaintiff at school,” according to the lawsuit, “and any actions that Dougherty did take only resulted in additional harassment, bullying and intimidation.”

The plaintiff’s mom says she even turned to Leland High Principal Brad Craycroft for help, but he acted like he knew nothing about the situation. She says he promised to investigate, but that he, too, did nothing to stop the bullying and harassment.

Absent any consequences, the male student accused of attacking Doe allegedly sexually assaulted yet another Leland High classmate in November 2017. The lawsuit says the boy was arrested on campus on Feb. 14, 2018, for both assaults.

Meanwhile, SJUSD Superintendent Nancy Albarrán allowed Doe to transfer to Pioneer High to finish her junior year. But the girl and her family claim that the harassment continued via texts, SnapChat and Twitter during school hours because district officials apparently failed to inform the new high school about the reason for the victim’s transfer. Thus, Pioneer High had no idea it had an obligation to shield the girl from abuse.

After the boy’s arrest, the harassment perpetrated by his friends allegedly escalated once again, causing the girl’s grades to suffer as she skipped school and suffered bouts of depression, anger and anxiety. In response, Pioneer High administrators developed a plan to boost her grades, which included dropping an AP history class and giving her six weeks to improve her academic performance.

Doe’s attorney says SJUSD’s failure to protect the victim deprived her of the education to which she’s legally entitled.

“Defendants had the authority and the ability to obstruct or stop the assailant’s and his friends’ harassment, bullying and intimidation of plaintiff, but negligently and/or willfully failed to do so,” the complaint reads. “This failure was a part of defendants’ plan and arrangement to conceal wrongful acts, to avoid and inhibit detection, to block public disclosure, to avoid scandal, to avoid the disclosure of their tolerance of on campus sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation and abuse.”

James Penning, one of the lawyers representing Doe, tells San Jose Inside that the school district has “policies and procedures in place to protect its students who report sexual assaults, sexual harassment and/or bullying.” It simply didn’t enforce them, he says.

“Here, SJ Unified failed to follow those policies and procedures and chose to blame and punish the victim rather than the offenders for the crimes committed against her,” Penning adds. “This is not acceptable, and we cannot continue to tolerate it.”

Since the incidents alleged in the lawsuit, Dougherty continues to work for in Leland High’s administration and Craycroft has been promoted to a district-level position as manager of curriculum and instruction.

SJUSD spokeswoman Lili Smith says the district, as a rule, doesn’t comment on the “specifics of ongoing litigation.”

“However,” she says, “I can assure the entire community that we take any allegations of employee misconduct very seriously and we vigorously protect the safety and well-being of our students. Upon being informed of a concern, San Jose Unified acts immediately.”

Doe and her family—whose attorneys are still negotiating a settlement with the district—contend otherwise. The parties are scheduled for further case management in December.

Doe says she suffered from depression and anxiety after “Leland High School and SJ Unified fail[ed] to intervene.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

19 Comments

  1. Terrible situation. The education system has to do better for victims of sexual assault. Thank you for shedding light on this problem through reporting.

  2. This is an extremely gross negligence case of failure to protect this victim and prevents other children from the same fate. It is pathetic to hear from those organizations that engage in these behaviors that they take allegations seriously. They obviously do not. More pathetic is the city of San Jose and the California Education Department for allow these situations to continue to happen. Those involved must be fired despite of their union power! SHAME ON SJUSD!

  3. In My Opinion and Based on my Research and Sources: This woman got nothing and ” Emily Doe ” got all of Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen’s Justice for One !

    What Rosen appears to do every four years in preparation of advancing his political career, is pick one lucky victim from his secret lottery and then use that victim to advance his won career and false narrative. He pimps out victims for political PR used for his own political purposes- it is shameful.

    It is time to look to the Santa Clara County DA’s office. They have given a free pass to politicians, celebrities and others, They have violated Marsy’s Law for 99% of crime victims.

    In their own office, former prosecutor Kayrn Sininu Towery and Claims Manager Saher Stephan had open sexual relationships with subordinate employees as crime victims in this county were ignored. Mr. Saher, while engaged in such a relationship, transported a victim out of state so she could not testify against 12 or more police officers who sexually assaulted her.

    Time to start looking at the selective prosecution, and selective protection that Mr. Rosen has engaged in for 9 years as he threatens and seeks to intimate victims without the powerful allies, or money, who force him to do his job.

    Follow the law and remove victim services from the DAO so victims will get the help state and federal tax payers assure with all that grant money Mr. Rosen, Kasey Halcon and James Gibbons Shaprio run around mismanaging.

    Presentation High- no prosecutions.
    De Anza Baseball- Sininu Towery gave those men a free pass and earned herself a job at SCU while collecting her DDA pension.

    49ers- rapes, beatings, and sexual assault- no prosecutions .
    Apple executives shown to be engaging in DV- no prosecutions.
    Andy Rubin LIVES HERE!
    San Martin rape victim- her attacker got released by Rosen, then she was offered a $250 cash card by Ms. Halcon.

    Hold your public officials responsible.

    That means you Mr. Rosen, Ms. Halcon, and Supervisors; . Smitian, Cortese, Wasserman, Ellenberg and Chavez.

    • My daughter is one of the victims of Presentation High school. They put us through 2 shoddy police investigations. My daughter’s police report was missing crucial information, including the phone records I supplied. They could of obtained them through a subpeona, but asked that I retrieve them, pay for them, and then left them out of the report. They never interviewed my daughter’s rapist in person, Never. She was only interviewed on the phone. Witnesses were not contacted by police. Her phone was never taken for evidence. The district attorney and SJPD put us through Hell, only to state they had lack of sufficient evidence, that’s completely false. They had plenty of evidence and chose to ignore it. I’ll be happy to share our report with the missing details. They protected and continue to protect that incestuous institution called Presentation high school. They continue to belittle and demean the victims. Nothing has been done. Nobody cares what that school and it’s corrupt administrators did and would have continued to keep doing. I’m ashamed to live here, and I am scared to death to know that this is our judicial system. It’s a horrific experience to be a victim.

      • Dina, I am so sorry about this and totally believe you. The Gilroy Police Department did the same thing with a sexual predator in a Gilroy High School and other cases. San José Police Department is no better. As you can see the main corruption common denominator is top one criminal in Santa Clara County Corrupted DA Jeff Rosen. Writing fraudulent police reports that serve to protect the perpetrators of crimes is a common practice for these Department and officers. They do not do any investigation and wait until your case expires due to statute of limitation. Do not waste your time reporting this to San Francisco FBI, they don’t do anything.

  4. Ms. Susan, I have lost hope. I have personally reported corruption cases and Jeff Rosen to the San Francisco FBI and others. Nothing has been done. Women and children continue to be victims of sexual and violent crimes. There is a very sinister systemic corruption protecting all these rotten politicians and other public officials. I will be fasting and praying for now and on. Reporting equals nothing!

    • > Ms. Susan, I have lost hope. I have personally reported corruption cases and Jeff Rosen to the San Francisco FBI and others. Nothing has been done.

      Here’s an idea FEXXY: try playing your “male privilege” card.

      I think you’ll discover that it doesn’t work any better than your “feminist victim” card.

      The only thing that might make things better is to vote for more Democrats. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

      • Should we vote for a president who is a sexual predator himself and appoints sexual predators to the Supreme Court! This rape culture has to be addressed from top to bottom!

        • A. When was the president a “sexual predator”? Are you going to try to claim that Stormy Daniels WASN’T a consenting adult?

          B. What “sexual predator” did the president appoint to the Supreme Court?

          Remember, you’re both a Christian and a Jew and it’s a sin to “bear false witness”.

    • So rather than deal with the cause of the problem (aka the criminal), or with the people in power who have failed to rectify the situation (aka the school and district), you think the proper solution is to upend the life of the victim and her family?

      • It is the policy of the district to blame the victims and intimidate them. It was a similar situation in leland Years AGO, , principo was transferred, AP, promoted, now she is a ditrector. Go figure sjusd.

  5. Sjusd is known for that, it is run by incompetent administrator from assistant superintendent,
    directors. I worked there and I know. A lot of problem in that district. Someone needs to clean. It up. A new leadership is needed.

  6. Asian who went to Leland. Wrote an essay about Columbine, got pulled out of school for 2 weeks because they thought I was a threat. Instead of dealing with the bigger issues like bullying & rape they like to take on these kind of cases.
    Chemistry teacher everyone knew was inappropriate with girls. Did nothing until 8 years later.

  7. This interview should have never happened without an attorney for the victim being present. As I read this I’m believing that there was/is a pending lawsuit. To me that is illegal and comments made are not admissable when a trial is finally opened. I would hope she is sueing the person who did this as well.

  8. Looks like the only way to get the District’s attention is to sue them into Oblivion. Maybe all the administrators of the school in question should be fired instead? Then again, they probably won’t learn anything. Unfortunately, in our society money talks. It seems to me these administrators were more interested in covering their hindquarters with both hands than doing their job. Too bad the administrators can’t be held personally liable. Maybe if they lost their homes, and employment they might learn something. Instead, most likely everyone will have to suffer because of the shoddy work done by the Administration.

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