Six former Colton (Calif.) High School football players are suing the Colton Joint Unified School District, as well as the school's former athletic trainer, alleging she sexually abused them more than a decade ago.
The six anonymous men alleged that when they were varsity football players at Colton, they were sexually abused by Tiffany Gordon, the school's athletic trainer and the daughter of the school's former head football coach and athletic director, Harold Strauss. Strauss died in 2019.
Gordon began working for the district in 2001 and most recently was the athletic director at Grand Terrace High School, another school in the CJUSD.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the anonymous men allege that other members of the team, the players' parents and staff knew about Gordon's alleged misconduct between 2002 and 2006, and the district failed to investigate the abuse.
“Despite rampant rumors surrounding Gordon’s misconduct, CJUSD knowingly, intentionally, willfully, deliberately, negligently, and/or recklessly allowed Gordon to continue abusing Colton High School’s varsity football players, including plaintiffs,” according to the lawsuit. “In doing so, defendants fostered a pervasive and hostile environment that utterly disregarded the rights and safety of minor athletes who were entrusted to CJUSD.”
Gordon has been placed on administrative leave, and the school district said it is cooperating fully with the Colton Police Department.
“Although the current administrative team members were not in leadership roles with the district 20 years ago, the district leadership team is extremely concerned about the allegations being made,” according to a district statement. “Our commitment is always to the safety and well-being of our students, families and staff, and we will work with local law enforcement to protect our community and lend our support to any victims in this case.”
All of the men, referred to as John Does in the lawsuit, allege that Gordon sexually assaulted and raped them throughout their high school careers.
“They really could’ve stopped it at any time,” on John Doe 7044 said an interview with The Times. “Everybody knew from when I stepped foot on Colton High that it was a rumor, so at the very least, they could’ve seen what this rumor was about. At no point did they ever step in to stop it.”
John Doe 7044 said he believes Gordon targeted him and the other because they were vulnerable, often needing rides home and money to buy food.
“I think the fact that we were a bunch of poor kids, nobody had the thought to protect us outside the football field,” he said.
The lawsuit, filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court, was brought under Assembly Bill 218, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and gave alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to report allegations by extending the statute of limitations for civil claims. The statute of limitations for a criminal charge of statutory rape in California is one year for a misdemeanor offense and three years for a felony.