Depositions: HS Failed to Report Coach's Misconduct | Athletic Business

Depositions: HS Failed to Report Coach's Misconduct

Officials at John F. Kennedy High School in LaPalma, Calif, acknowledge their failure to conduct a proper investigation into December 2015 allegations that a water polo coach at the school was trying to date a freshman on his team, and that school officials did not report the allegations to authorities, according to documents obtained by The Orange County Register.

In his own deposition, Joshua Owens, the coach in question, admitted that he felt he was in trouble when summoned to a Dec. 14, 2015, meeting with Dave Jankowski, one of the school's athletic directors. Owens had previously dated a different girl on his team when the allegations regarding the freshman surfaced. "As soon as I thought Jankowski knew anything happened, I was like, great, I'm going to jail for the rest of my life is literally what went through my head," Owens stated under oath earlier this month. "Jankowski is going to throw me under the bus and I’m dead is what literally went through my head as [I was] thinking about it."

However, depositions by Dean Wang, another Kennedy athletic director, Owens and other documents obtained by the Register show that Jankowski and other officials at the Anaheim Union High School District school cleared Owens within hours despite not interviewing the freshman girl Owens was allegedly targeting, the girl he had allegedly dated or the former player who raised the allegations.

Related: Suit: HS Staff Failed to Respond to Sexual Misconduct

Wang acknowledged in his deposition that Kennedy officials failed to conduct a proper investigation, that the charges met the reasonable suspicion threshold that requires school employees to report such allegations to Child Protective Services or law enforcement under state law, and that no employees reported the allegations. Wang and Jankowski, as well as an assistant water polo coach and the school principal, all knew of the situation as early as December 2014, yet did not report the allegations to CPS or law enforcement, and did not issue a written warning to Owens despite his admission to giving a ride to a female player in violation of district policy. 

Wang was asked, "Do you think you handled the Owens case correctly?" He responded, "I do not think I did."

As reported by the Register, the depositions and documents show how a series of missteps and failures to report Owens to CPS or law enforcement over a nearly two year period enabled Owens to continue sexually abusing two teenage athletes, begin sexually abusing a Kennedy freshman athlete in 2016 and sexually harass at least two other Kennedy students before he was arrested in November 2016.

Owens even admitted in his deposition to molesting a 15-year-old victim while they were in his Ford Mustang in the Kennedy faculty parking lot during school hours.

"A complete and utter failure despite bright red flags everywhere," said Morgan Stewart, an attorney representing former Kennedy players in suit filed in Orange County Superior Court against the Aneheim Union High School District, Owens, Wang, Jankowski, former Kennedy principal Russell Earnest, former water polo head coach Eric Pierce and current Kennedy teacher Ian Sabala.

Owens pleaded guilty last August to one count each of oral copulation with a victim younger than 16, and sexual penetration of a victim younger than 16 and six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance. He was sentenced to six months in jail, according to plea agreement documents.

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