SAN JOSE, Calif. (Ann Rubin/KTVU) - Two former students at Presentation High School in San Jose are alleging the school covered up reports of sexual abuse for three decades. The women spoke, with their attorney today at a news conference. However, the all-girls Catholic school strongly denies any wrongdoing.
For these women, the pain is fresh, though the allegations of sexual abuse by a teacher at Presentation High School happened three decades ago.
"When I sent my first letter reporting that he had groped me and shown me pictures of a naked woman, the administration didn't even respond," said Kathryn Leehane, a former student at Presentation.
Leehane said she tried for years to report what happened when she was a student: first to the school, and later to police, child protective services and the Catholic Diocese of San Jose.
But it was only this fall, after she wrote an article for a national publication, that she felt she was finally heard.
"While I was speaking to a global community of survivors, I didn't realize how many more there were at Presentation," Leehan said.
Cheryl Hodgin Marshall spoke on behalf of a friend, who was allegedly abused by the same teacher during the early 1990s. She said they went together to report what happened to administrators at the all-girls school.
"Not only did we not get any help, she dismissed both of us with stern warnings to be careful about what we say," Marshall said.
School officials at Presentation strongly dispute any claims that they failed to act. In a statement today they said, "For anyone to suggest that PHS has in any manner covered up or condoned any instance of sexual abuse is an outright lie."
In fact, they say they conducted an investigation 25 years ago, though they cannot discuss the outcome. Still, attorney Robert Allard, who is representing the women, believes more should have been done.
"The response by the administration at Presentation High School was to protect the image and reputation of the school and cast the welfare and safety of the students to the side," Allard said.
Allard said the women want three things: an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, a public apology, and a commitment to a drastic change in mindset.
He also says there are other victims.
The teacher in Leehane's case died last year, but in recent weeks the school put two current teachers on leave relating to other incidents.
And for the women impacted in those cases, Leehane had this message.
"I believe you. I support you. And I stand with you as we work to make a difference," said Leehane.
The women and their attorney are now demanding a meeting with Presentation's board of directors in the hopes that something will change.