SAN DIEGO — An 18-year-old former student at Grossmont High School says school administrators and district officials stripped her of her senior year of high school after allowing a teacher to return to class after she says he sexually assaulted her in front of the class.
"Jane" and her father, both of whom wish to remain anonymous, say they reported the assault to Grossmont High School counselors as well as to the police. The district, says Jane, allowed the teacher back after a two-week suspension, forcing her to transition to virtual learning for the remainder of her senior year.
The school's decision to allow the teacher to return prompted wide-scale protests at Grossmont High.
Meanwhile, Jane says the assault has caused her to lose trust in men and spiral downward into a mental health crisis.
Jane has now filed a lawsuit in hopes of holding the district and school officials accountable and, she says, preventing the same from happening to others.
The Alleged Assault
Jane was in government class for the 6th period. During class, she asked the long-time former Grossmont High Teacher - who CBS 8 will not name because the teacher has since died - to use the restroom. On her way out, Jane says she felt her teacher's hand reach down into the back of her jeans. He pulled her back towards him.
"I could like feel every breath he was taking. I turned toward him and he had a smirk on his face. And he's kind of just giggling, not really laughing. He said, 'you know, I love you. Right?' He was like a second dad to me. He then told me that I was showing a little too much [cleavage] And I was like, No, I'm not. He's like, yes, you aren't. I wasn't gonna argue with him. I started walking away and he slapped my butt two times in front of everyone."
Jane called her best friend to tell her what had happened.
She planned to tell her dad when he picked her up from school but she got scared.
"I felt so embarrassed. Like, it was my fault - but I didn't do anything. He was like a second dad to me and it made me want to throw up, it still does every time I think about it."
The following day, Jane says she couldn't let what happened to her go and went straight to her school counselor to report the assault.
"I didn't really know what to do. So I went to my counselor and I let her know what happened. And we called my dad and did everything we had to. I was just in shock," said Jane.
In addition to reporting the assault to the school counselor, Jane, and her dad, 'Jake', also filed a police report and both were interviewed by a police officer.
In response, school administrators told her and her dad that they were placing the teacher on suspension while it investigated the assault.
Nearly two weeks later, Jane says her dad got a message from school staff.
"They called me the day before and told me that the teacher is going to be back in school teaching the next day. I was like, What are you talking about? This guy needs to be disciplined, investigated, you know, charged, if not fired," said Jake.
"It made me feel like I didn't matter," said Jane. "I didn't get an apology. I didn't get anything from the district or from the teacher it was just nothing," said Jane.
Protests at Grossmont High School
Jane wasn't the only student that was shocked to hear that the teacher was returning to the classroom.
On the day of the teacher's return, hundreds of students protested at the school, demanding that the school take appropriate action against the teacher.
The protest was so large that Principal Dan Barnes sent out the following messages:
In his message, Barnes informed parents and families that an estimated 200 students were protesting "a recent allegation of employee misconduct."
At the time, Barnes said the district had issued the following statement on the charges. "Upon completion of the District's investigation, appropriate remedial action was taken to address the situation. While the District does not release confidential or personnel-related information about our students or employees, our District would never return a student to an unsafe learning environment."
But for Jane, the District's response and investigation were far from adequate and she couldn't handle the thought of having to return to the teacher's class.
"He should have been fired," Jane told CBS 8. "Every parent should have gotten notified about what had happened. But instead, I had to do the rest of my senior year online because I didn't want to show up to his class. I had a gagging reflex every time I thought of him, of what he did to me."
But that wasn't all.
Jane says she was stripped of her senior year and robbed of the experience with her friends.
I missed out on so much, even just the daily things, having lunch with my friends, making after-school plans, maybe walking to the gas station after school, and going to football games. It was all taken away from me."
Jane tells CBS 8 that she also had to quit her job because the teacher knew where she worked and she feared that he would show up.
Jane's dad, Jake, says he will never forgive the district and school staff for putting his daughter through what she had to endure, despite the fact that the teacher, according to Jake, was forced to retire at the end of the school year and has since passed away.
"It's horrific," Jake said. "I can't tell you the number of nights that I'd have to be in her room, consoling her because she's crying uncontrollably, or I have to stay there so she feels like she has support. I will never forget the days when she was crying and called me in because she didn't know what to wear because she was afraid men would look at her."
In regard to what he wants to see happen, Jake tells CBS 8, "They need to come up with better practices and policies. This is a new age, we're not allowing these violations to happen. We're standing up for the girls and women who have had to go through similar."
Attorney Dan Gilleon represents Jane in her lawsuit against Grossmont Union High School District. Gilleon tells CBS 8 that the district failed in a number of ways to protect his client as well as others.
"Most people believe that a school’s number one priority is keeping their kids safe. That didn’t happen here," said Gilleon. "The school district looked the other way before my client was assaulted. They ignored it when it happened. Even after the report, another young woman was harassed by this teacher. The school district neglected its number one job and didn’t keep its students safe. This lawsuit is the only way to wake them up and hold them to account.
CBS 8 reached out to Grossmont Union High School District for comment. A spokesperson for the district responded by stating, "The District is unable to comment regarding confidential personnel or student issues, but can state that it disputes many of the allegations in the complaint."