OCTOBER 20, 2022

The Questions That Come Up When Sexual Abuse Happens in Your Community
The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Standard recently reported on a lawsuit alleging that a San Francisco high school athletic director sexually abused students, and then was allowed by the SFUSD to quietly resign. 

The plaintiffs (Jane Doe and Jane Doe 2) said that the district failed to protect them from Lawrence Young-Yet Chan, the former George Washington High School athletic director who groomed and then sexually abused them for years. The victims are seeking damages from their abuser and from the district. 
Chan’s actions, such as regularly excusing one of the victims from classes in order to facilitate the abuse, should have caused suspicion and triggered supervisory action by the district, the plaintiff’s attorney said. Once SFUSD learned of the allegations, they entered into a confidential settlement that allowed Chan to quietly resign with no criminal consequences, and to be paid for unused vacation time. The settlement also prevented the district from disclosing personnel information about Chan unless legally compelled to do so. This allowed Chan to continue working for SF Parks and Rec despite the allegations against him.
Too Close to Home
For our colleague Molly, a Safety Awareness Trainer, this story is more than a news article: it’s personal. Her own daughter is a George Washington High School graduate and was a student during the time in question. Their family and the rest of the community (and of course the victims themselves, to a much greater degree) are now left grappling with the devastation caused by this man, whose inappropriate and unusual behavior had raised red flags for Molly's family early on.
“I talked with the principal about Chan's aggressive behavior but she was dismissive, protected Chan and now I find out that he was asked to quietly retire.”
Here is Molly's story:

A couple of days before the Chronicle article came out, our daughter came to us and told us that a big story about abuse in her high school was about to break, and she knew why. She had heard about Jane Doe 1 and told us that the abuser was Lawrence Young-Yet Chan, who had been the school's athletic director during her time there. 

Chan had also been our daughter's volleyball coach during her freshman year. Our daughter loved volleyball and it was something she was good at. We thought she would play all through high school and hopefully in college. Chan’s behavior made her quit volleyball. My husband and I witnessed several occasions in which the coach had angry outbursts of name calling, clearly making the student athletes embarrassed and deflated. 

Mid-season we approached the principal to discuss, but she pushed back in defense of the coach, informing us that Chan had been hand-picked by her. Our daughter quit playing volleyball because of his very offensive behavior and how uncomfortable he made the student athletes feel. As parents, we were devastated because she excelled and enjoyed the sport for so many years prior. We accepted and supported her decision but did not interrogate her on the “why”. 

When I read the recent articles, I couldn’t help but recall the conversations we’d had with the principal at the time. I had talked with her about Chan’s aggressive behavior but she dismissed me. Shortly thereafter, we found out he was asked to quietly retire. What if the principal had chosen to listen to us at the time and had looked into Chan’s behavior? What if he had been supervised properly from the beginning? What if the principal stepped up and took appropriate action? What if more people, students and parents spoke up about Chan? For example, one of my daughter’s teammates had noted that he would lock the office door when he met alone with some team members.

Another immediate thought I had was, “Oh god, we dodged a bullet.” After talking with my daughter, I felt confident that she had not been harmed physically by Chan. But...what if? What if she hadn’t quit volleyball? What if I hadn’t given her the language and tools to recognize people exhibiting inappropriate and creepy behavior and to remove herself from bad situations? And of course I know that it’s not just about my own kids. I deal with feelings and thoughts that I should have done more. It's every parent‘s nightmare.
“What if I hadn’t given my daughter the language and tools to recognize creepy people and to extract herself from bad situations?”
From Molly and from all of us at Partners in Prevention, our hearts go out to Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, and to all victims of abuse. It’s important that we all share our stories and tools so that we can collectively be attuned to the signs of abuse, and can recognize and speak out when someone's behavior is inappropriate or problematic. It’s up to us—the adults in a community—to keep kids safe.
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