Palo Alto HS student athlete withdraws as outrage over sex assault case grows

PALO ALTO (KTVU) -- A student athlete has decided not to finish the academic year at Palo Alto High School after 2 Investigates uncovered multiple claims that he had sexually assaulted underage girls.

Stephanie Rickard, a lawyer representing the teen, said in a statement to KTVU on Tuesday that the boy, whose identity has not been publicly revealed, will leave the school.

"Although the student in question has been in compliance with all court orders, and the fact that the district attorney's office has declined to file anything against the student other than consensual underage sexual activity as a result the conduct on campus, the student has elected not to complete the school year on campus," Rickard's statement said.

The attorney's announcement came on the same day that the Palo Alto Unified School District held a special meeting to discuss how administrators had handled the case of the student, who continued to play sports and attend class despite a conviction in at least one off-campus sexual assault case. 

After the meeting, the school district issued a statement from Board President Terry Godfrey saying it had hired the outside law firm Cozen O'Connor to "conduct an investigation of how district staff handled the issues surrounding the events at Palo Alto High School that have recently been reported in the media." 

The statement also said that the firm would evaluate the performance of the district's superintendent and the Board would share the results of its investigation with the public "to the extent possible."

Before the board entered its closed-session meeting, some parents had called for the school principal and superintendent to be fired in the wake of reports by 2 Investigates, which was the first to report on the conviction and the claims of two other teenage girls who also came forward accusing the student of sexual violence in two additional instances.

During a tense, standing-room only board meeting, parents and students spoke during the public comment session before school board members retreated behind closed doors for an executive session.

"It was really sickening having to be sent a YouTube clip of the news hearing what was happening," said Palo Alto High School student Magdalena Renteria. "I'm walking around other students who could have been victims of what was happening."

MORE COVERAGE

On Monday, Palo Alto High School Principal Kimberly Diorio made a public statement to students on the school's broadcast news channel addressing the sexual assault cases, and how the school was responding. Her statement was made on the television news show named In Focus, which is broadcast on YouTube.

"We've had additional counseling staff on our campus and I've also requested additional female administrators to be here as well," she told the students. "So, please come to the wellness center or the guidance office if you need help getting any support."

It was clear that the incidents have stirred anger on campus.

"My parents send me to school everyday assuming that my teachers are there to protect me and make me feel like I'm in a safe place," Magdalena said. "And it's really, really saddening to think that they just don't really care about you."

Some parents at the board meeting wanted to know why the student was allowed to attend class after the superintendent and principal became aware of the off-campus assault and the teen's subsequent conviction.

"The student in question was neither arrested or convicted of sexual assault or sexual harassment on school grounds." Diorio said.

KTVU reporter Jesse Gary contributed to this report.

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