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Lawsuit: HS 'Ignored and Concealed' Coach's Abuse

Paul Steinbach

The Irvine (Calif.) Unified School District faces a lawsuit by a former student-athlete who alleges school officials concealed sexual abuse perpetrated by University High School water polo coach Bahram Hojreh against female team members.

As reported by The Orange County Registerthe lawsuit also alleges former University High School athletic director Mark Cunningham, now the IUSD athletic director, UHS principal Kevin Astor, and other school officials repeatedly ignored player and parent complaints about Hojreh’s “weird” and “creepy” behavior toward female athletes and violations of district policies prior to the sexual abuse of the former player.

The former player, identified in court filings as Jane Doe, alleges in the suit that she was sexually abused, molested and harassed by Hojreh after he was rehired by the school in 2014. Cunningham and Astor “ignored and concealed the sexual abuse of the Plaintiff and others by Hojreh that had already occurred,” according to the suit, filed this month in Orange County Superior Court.

Hojreh was hired and terminated three times by the school, according to court documents. Cunningham terminated Hojreh for abusive and threatening behavior in 2007 and then rehired him at the school in 2014, according to the suit and other court documents. Hojreh was released from his University High position in March 2017, according to the IUSD.

The Jane Doe suit is the second filed against the IUSD that alleges Cunningham and Astor ignored and covered up predatory and erratic behavior by Hojreh.

“As a walk-on water polo coach, Mr. Hojreh coached intermittently on a part-time basis at University High School and was not part of the school’s regular staff,” the IUSD said in a statement. “He was released by IUSD in March 2017 for reasons unrelated to any such claims.  Due to confidentiality laws, I’m unable to further discuss the details of Mr. Hojreh’s employment but I can confirm that during his time with IUSD, he was never the subject of any allegations or complaints related to sexual misconduct.  Throughout his period of employment, no complaints of sexual misconduct were reported to our school, the District or the Irvine Police Department.

“In response to the statement that Mr. Hojreh was fired in 2000 and 2007, I can confirm that he was not fired in 2000 or 2007.  Walk-on coaches are itinerant employees.  Mr. Hojreh served as a walk-on coach at University High School for approximately five years over an 18 year period.”

Around 2006 the IUSD adopted a policy that prohibited coaches from getting in the pool with players of the opposite sex, the suit alleges. The policy was implemented in response to a district coach sexually abusing a female water polo player, according to the suit. The origins of the abuse began in the pool during training, the suit alleges.

But Cunningham, Astor and other University High officials ignored and failed to act on repeated player and parent complaints that Hojreh was frequently in the water with female players during practices, the suit alleges.

At least four reports were filed with USA Water Polo between July 10 and 14, 2017, that outlined allegations or allege that players coached by Hojreh at International Water Polo, an Orange County club, repeatedly sexually assaulted young girls from at least five teams during tournaments that summer by grabbing or trying to penetrate their vaginas, The Orange County Register reported last month.

Despite the severity of the allegations, USA Water Polo officials took no action against Hojreh, did not place Hojreh and IWP under greater scrutiny or make any effort to identify the girls allegedly sexually assaulted or attempt or provide assistance to them.

Hojreh continued coaching at IWP, Kennedy High in La Palma and the Anaheim Union School District until he was arrested in April 2018 on 22 charges ranging from sexual battery, lewd act with an individual under 14, and sexual penetration of a minor with a foreign object, according to arrest records and court filings. Hojreh has denied any wrongdoing.

Hojreh allegedly continued sexually abusing at least a dozen underage girls he coached between July 2017, when the first complaints about the coach and IWP were submitted to USA Water Polo, and his April 2018 arrest, according to police reports, court filings and interviews, The Orange County Register reported.

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