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District to Pay Victims of Coach's Sex Abuse $7.9M

Paul Steinbach

The Anaheim (Calif.) Union High School District has agreed to pay $7.9 million to five former Kennedy High School female water polo players to settle a lawsuit that alleged district and school officials and employees concealed from students, parents and law enforcement that a Kennedy coach had sexually abused students at the school, according to The Orange County Register.

As reported by the Register, the settlement comes nearly five years after a Kennedy coach was first alerted of potential sexual misconduct by Joshua Owens, a water polo coach, and almost four years since Owens was cleared by school officials of a second set of sexual abuse allegations following a 15 to 20 minute investigation by Kennedy officials in which they made no attempt to interview the alleged victim or whistleblower.

Owens continued to abuse female athletes at the school until he was arrested in November 2016. He pleaded guilty to one felony count each of oral copulation of a victim younger than 16 and sexual penetration of a victim younger than 16, as well as six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance, and was sentenced to six months in prison.

The failure of Kennedy athletics director Dave Jankowski and at least six other Kennedy administrators, coaches and teachers to report allegations of sexual misconduct against Owens in 2014 and 2015 to law enforcement or Child Protective Services as required by California law or attempt to interview alleged victims enabled Owens to sexually abuse two teenage athletes, begin sexually abusing a Kennedy freshman athlete in 2016 and sexually harass at least two other Kennedy students, asking them to have sex with him, according to police reports, Anaheim UHSD documents and deposition transcripts obtained by the Register.

Related: Depositions: HS Failed to Report Coach's Misconduct

“The size of this settlement testifies to the serious nature of the abuse and the failure of the district to prevent it,” said Morgan Stewart, an attorney for four of the former players. “Child sexual abuse at Anaheim Unified High School District began as a serious problem and is becoming a full-blown scandal. Even after settling these cases, the district still refuses to take action against those who failed to report sexual abuse of a minor as required by law and continues to regularly take steps allowing for the hiring of abusive teachers.”

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