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Ex-Francis Parker School student files suit over alleged teacher sex abuse

Teacher and basketball coach at center of lawsuit died in September 2016.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A lawsuit was filed Thursday against Francis Parker School and three of its employees, claiming the school knew one of its employees acted inappropriately with a student, and failed to report him to authorities.

Grace Winn, alleges teacher Miguel Cembrano, molested her while she was an eighth grader at the elite school during the 2014-2015 school year. 

Winn said she was 13 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.

"So much of my life was spent at Parker so my decision to speak out has not been easy," said Winn during a news conference in Mission Valley. "I trusted the Parker administration and I trusted the adults to take care of me."

"I was 13 years old when I was molested and abused and I felt there was no safe place at Francis Parker to speak out," she said. "I want those to take accountability for where they failed me and other students. I want the school to learn and I want the school to be better. I want them to be better and do better. I want them to finally put students first."

"I am not doing this out of revenge, I am not doing this out of hate," said Winn. "I am doing this to ensure there is change and systemic reform within Francis Parker, so no other child has to go through this."

According to Winn's attorneys, Cembrano inappropriately touched Winn, including grabbing her rear on numerous occasions. They said at one point he asked Winn to send him nude photos.

"Parents pay [Francis Parker School] $35,000 a year to get individualized attention," said Winn's attorney, Jessica Pride. "They know these kids personally."

Winn didn't report the alleged abuse to Francis Parker until 2017. However, her attorneys said the school knew about Cembrano's behavior because it fired him in 2015 for inappropriate conduct with a different student.

The lawsuit alleges that because Francis Parker didn't report Cembrano to the authorities he went on to teach at High Tech High, where he allegedly was investigated for suspected child abuse.

High Tech High tells News 8 it doesn't comment on personnel matters.

In September of 2016, Cembrano passed away.

"He committed suicide," said Pride. "However, before he committed suicide he sent Grace a text message and said 'I’m sorry.' I’m sorry, it’s an admission of guilt."

Pride said they are in the process of subpoenaing SnapChat photos exchanged between Winn and Cembrano. 

She said she believes there are other victims out there and encouraged them to come forward. 

Pride said they are seeking monetary damages from Francis Parker, but did not disclose the amount.

News 8 reached out to Francis Parker for comment. Head of Communications Lori Biggs sent the following statement:

"At Francis Parker School we take all alleged incidents extremely seriously. Our School’s values are founded on putting students first, and providing an environment for learning where students are safe, both physically and emotionally. We are unable to comment on the specifics of the pending litigation." 

According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, there has not been a case submitted on Miguel Cembrano.

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