LOS GATOS (CBS SF) — A former Los Gatos High School student is suing the school district and two former track coaches over the alleged sexual abuse she endured from a coach while she was a student-athlete.
Lawyers for the victim, identified only as Jane Doe, said she was subjected to grooming behavior from former track coach Chioke “Chee” Robinson starting at age 14 during the 1998-99 school year and it progressed to sexual activity 1999 through 2001.READ MORE: Outrage Grows Over Racist Social Media Attack Targeting KPIX 5 Reporter Betty Yu
The sexual activity included oral sex and sexual intercourse, and allegedly occurred on campus in the in the high school’s track and field shed as well as other locations, the complaint said.
Robinson was arrested in 2019 on the campus of San Francisco State University where he was a women’s assistant track and field coach and charged with sexually assaulting at least six minor victims ages 12 to 17 in Santa Clara County. San Jose police said the assaults happened while Robinson worked as a track coach at Los Gatos High School and Piedmont Hills High School, as well as at a San Jose club track team.
The lawsuit from the former Los Gatos High School student also names the school’s former head track coach, Willie Harmatz, as well as the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District as defendants.
According to the complaint, Harmatz was notified about Robinson’s predatory behavior by another student who had transferred to Los Gatos High from another school where Robinson worked in order to get away from him, only to find he had begun working at LGHS.
Harmatz allegedly threatened that student as well as another student athlete in order to dissuade them from coming forward about the sexual abuse allegations against Robinson, the complaint stated.
Attorneys said Los Gatos police were contacted in 1999 by Jane Doe’s mother after finding a discarded pregnancy test in her daughter’s trash can along with sexually explicit love letters from Robinson.
The complaint also states that when the Los Gatos High School principal informed Harmatz that she intended to immediately terminate Robinson in light of the police investigation, he protested enough that the principal relented and decided to let Robinson off with a warning to use “common sense” in the future.
The student and her lawyers spoke about the lawsuit Tuesday during a press conference streamed on Facebook.
“My only options were to continue my being sexually abused by my coach or to stop running track,” the victim said. “I had been a rising athlete my entire life. Being an athlete was my identity.READ MORE: Despite Fines, Pleasant Hill In-N-Out Remains Defiant Over Customer Vaccine Verifications
“Ultimately, I became so weak during this tumultuous time I was forced to relinquish my identity,” she added.
She said she was on track to become a star athlete, with dreams of being in the Olympics.
At age 11, she was the second-best jumper in California in her age group and before starting high school, she was invited to an elite track and field summer camp and trained by retired Olympians.
“My dreams of running in college or even going to college were shattered,” she said. “I did not even get to walk at my high school graduation.”
She left the school after her junior year, “as I had endured as much as I could at that point,” she said.
“It was the start of lifelong issues with anxiety, instability, insomnia, depression,” she said. “What happened to me in high school followed me over the next two decades and continued to drown me throughout my life.”
Attorney Lauren Cerri said during the press conference the district ignored numerous red flags about Robinson’s behavior and even when the district fired him in 2001 Harmetz said Robinson would still train student-athletes off campus.
“Our client, Jane Doe, would have been protected from years of sexual abuse had Los Gatos administrators and Harmetz had taken steps to protect the students in its care and her, rather than allowing Robinson to continue coaching,” said Cerri.
“The school district held nothing back in its zeal to protect a storied track program,” attorney Robert Allard said in a prepared statement. “To think that a track coach was allowed to suppress evidence in a childhood sexual abuse investigation to the point of silencing two critical witnesses so that his pedophile assistant could keep getting access to children is absolutely terrifying.”
Attorneys for the victims urged any other student who may have been a victim of sexual abuse at Los Gatos High School to come forward.
Robinson is currently out on bail from his 2019 arrest. An email to his attorney seeking reaction to Tuesday’s lawsuit was not immediately returned.
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