Presentation High takes steps to protect students from sexual misconduct

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, a prominent Catholic girls high school accused of mishandling sexual misconduct complaints from students, says it has a developed a new protocol to handle allegations moving forward.

Officials at Presentation High School announced Tuesday the creation of an independent office for students to report any complaints of misconduct, harassment or bullying.

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

This all comes as the school faced mounting criticism over how it has addressed allegations regarding improper behavior from teachers and/or staff in the past.

"We cannot erase the feelings or change the perceptions of some," says Mary Miller, Presentation High School principal. "But, we can learn from the opinions expressed and move forward with even greater resolve."

Kathyrn Leehane, a San Jose resident and 1991 Presentation graduate, says she was sexually harassed by a former teacher while attending the school. She says she told school officials that she had been groped and shown pornography, but that they never reported it to law enforcement.

Last fall, Leehane decided to go public with her story by sharing it with the Washington Post.

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

"It doesn't require any special team to follow child abuse reporting laws. They're very simple," says Leehane. "If a child comes to you, reporting abuse, you call the police."

As part of a group called 'Make Pres Safe,' at least 20 alleged victims have now come forward to share claims of misconduct by eight teachers and/or staff that took place over nearly three decades.

"Pedophiles are out there, they will continue to be out there," says San Jose attorney Robert Allard, who is representing the group on a pro-bono basis. "If the appropriate barriers are not put up, they will get close to the kids, and they will molest the kids."

Sam Singer, a prominent crisis communications professional hired by Presentation, says the school has been the victim hateful emails, letters and voicemails in recent months.

"Misleading posts on social media that there have been allegations in the past of sexual misconduct," said Singer. "Most of those allegations no one has ever heard of before."

RELATED: 2 former students allege sexual abuse at Presentation High School in San Jose

For now, Leehane says she won't stop sharing her story until the girls at Presentation are safe in her eyes. She says the school's culture can't change until Miller is out as president.

"Until the board and Mary Miller acknowledge that they have violated mandatory reporting laws in the past, I'm not sure we can have a productive discussion," says Leehane.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.