Presentation HS president resigns amid accusations she mishandled reports of sex abuse

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- On Wednesday, Presentation High School's president and former principal, Mary Miller, submitted her resignation to the school's board of directors.

Miller came under criticism in October 2017, after a letter from a former student was published to the Washington Post, accusing Miller of mishandling allegations of sexual abuse.

Since then, dozens of former Presentation students have come forward to report they were abused too.

RELATED: More sexual misconduct claims at Presentation High School in San Jose

"I have come to the realization my resignation is what is best for Pres," Miller said in her resignation letter. "The allegations of past sexual abuse continue to be a distraction for the school and bring negative attention towards Presentation."

ABC7 News met with Kathryn Leehane, one of dozens of former Presentation HS students to come forward about her alleged abuse.

On Wednesday, Leehane explained her experience, "While I was a student at Presentation, Mary Miller was my idol. She was my mentor."

So, when Leehane told school administrators about being groped by one of her teachers, and being shown an explicit picture by the same man, she expected action.

"When she failed me after I graduated, by not reporting my abuse to the police, I was devastated," Leehane said.

She explained spending seven years in the 1990's, trying to bring her alleged abuser to justice.

Not until October 2017 was her writing published in the Washington Post. Leehane's article detailing how she achieved peace.

She says Miller's resignation, nearly a year later, is a critical first step for both victims of sexual abuse, and for current and future students to ensure their safety is top priority.

Miller touched on that topic in her letter to the board, Wednesday.

"It is my sincere hope that my absence will bring some peace and allow the staff and new administration to focus on the success and well being of our students - which is our common goal," Miller wrote.

"I think it's really important for leadership to change," Beth Johnson told ABC7 News. "As much as I've loved and learned from Mary Miller."

RELATED: Accusations fly over SJ high school's handling of sexual abuse allegations

Johnson is also a former student who was taught by a Presentation HS Spanish teacher who is just one of a number staff members accused of abuse.

Johnson says she's devastated to hear about the allegations against Miller, and even more distraught to learn about the abuse her fellow peers say they've endured.

Leehane says after her story was published in October, more than 30 people came forward to say they were abused too. Many of those women confirming school administration, including Miller, did nothing to prevent.

"She did a lot of good for Presentation, there is no doubt about that," Leehane said. "But she also, through her failure to report child abuse, she victimized dozens of girls."

Miller's resignation is effective September 14th.

In the release about her resignation, Presentation High School added the school has since implemented a series of actions to increase measures to educate and protect young women.

Those measures include the following:

Conducting additional mandatory reporting training for all staff in January 2018 and

preparing two additional trainings on student safety in the 2018-2019 school year.

Implementing new policy updates (available on our website) recommended by an ad hoc

committee and approved by the Board.

Creating the Office of Prevention of Student Bullying, Harassment & Abuse, led by a

Director who reports to the Board.

Attending a mediation to listen to ideas on how to make Presentation an even safer

school in the future.

Applying updates to our Student Wellness Program to include student safety.

Focusing on healthy relationships, dating, and how to spot abuse in our annual Student Development Days

Bishop Patrick J. McGrath with the Diocese of San Jose released the following statement:

I commend the courageous women who have come forward over the past year to cast light upon the abuse that they and others experienced while students at Presentation High School. Through these difficult times, they have stood with one another in solidarity.

Over the past few months, I have met with some of the victims and listened to their stories and concerns. I hope that the announcement today by the Board of Directors of the change in school leadership will allow the victims, survivors, their families, and the Presentation High School community to take the next step on the path of recovery and wholeness.

The Diocese of San Jose is committed to a safe environment for all and extends support to victims/survivors and their families through the Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults - 408-983-0113.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.