Presentation High School appoints committee, office to address abuse allegations

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SAN JOSE (BCN) Presentation High School is focusing on the future by establishing a committee to study best practices for handling their recent sexual abuse allegations and setting up an independent office dedicated to complaints of misconduct, a school spokesman said.

According to Sam Singer, the school has tried reaching out to the group of alumnae who make up the association Make Pres Safe and their attorney to meet in a public setting with a neutral mediator.

Though representatives from Presentation have contacted the group as recently as last week, Singer said, they have rejected offers to meet.

Make Pres Safe has alleged a past of ignoring reports of sexual abuse and harassment against Presentation High School, and specifically against Principal Mary Miller, who has served in the administrative role for over 20 years, Singer confirmed.

Singer emphasized that there are no legal claims against the school and that there are no record whatsoever of the incidents Make Pres Safe outlines taking place 20 to 30 years ago being reported to the private school.

Singer said that for the reason of a lack of documentation, factual discussion about these events is "impossible."

The school spokesman said that while the group and the school disagree, they both value best practices in education and empowerment of young women.

"We cannot erase the feelings or change the perceptions of some," Miller said in a statement. "But we can learn from the opinions expressed and move forward with even greater resolve."

The Office for the Prevention of Student Bullying, Harassment and Abuse will be located on campus and will report directly to the board of directors, acting complementary to the four existing school counselors, Singer said.

The new department is modeled off of a similar office at the University of California Berkeley, but the specific office name was not confirmed at this time.

Singer and Miller both said that the school is aiming to continue to do their best in prioritizing student safety. Singer said that it was important to note that none of the teachers or faculty mentioned in these 
allegations work at the school currently.

When asked about how the student body is handling the attention of the allegations, Singer said that he felt that the majority of students, parents and alumnae were angered by the claims but have "open hearts to hear out what is being said."

Make Pres Safe has an online presence through their website, Twitter account, Instagram account and Facebook page which were all created from Jan. 17 to Jan. 22. These are the forums in which the group has posted a timeline of accusations as well as statements from the school and Principal 

The timeline of sexual abuse and harassment allegations spans over three decades and two different principals.

According to Make Pres Safe's website, the allegations were brought to the public eye after alum Kathryn Leehane wrote about being an abuse survivor in an article in the Washington Post.

Most recently, the Make Pres Safe group called for supporters to send postcards to Diocese of San Jose in order to gain their involvement. They posted examples of what could be written with the address in an Instagram caption.

Singer said that Presentation High School as a whole hopes that the group will be more cautionary in their statements.

"What they are posting on social media is having damaging, dangerous consequences for Presentation's faculty," Singer said.

Miller received a one-minute voicemail from an anonymous man who supports Make Pres Safe in which he stated that he hopes she gets "raped by a bunch of n------," along with a slew of other expletives demeaning to her character. The caller also threatened to publish the names of the children in her family, such as kids, nieces and nephews, on the internet if she does not resign within the next week.

Singer confirmed that the hate speech was reported to the police.

Singer said that is just one example of the multiple cases of threats Presentation staff have gotten.

Principal Miller said that the Presentation staff and supporters are just as shocked by the allegations as the rest of the community.

"It is difficult to imagine a woman in America today who is not upset about the ongoing reports of the sexual misconduct being reported by so many who have found themselves victim of inexcusable conduct," Miller said in a statement. "Be assured that we are equally appalled."