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Third Former Kennedy High School Students Files Lawsuit Against Anaheim Unified School District Alleging Sexual Abuse by Water Polo Coach

In 2019, a lawsuit was filed against Anaheim Unified School District by a third former student athlete from Kennedy High School, alleging sexual abuse by water polo coach Joshua Owens, highlighting a pattern of alleged administrative failures to report abuse.

Irvine, California - Attorneys representing two former student athletes at John F. Kennedy High School in Anaheim, California, announced the filing of another lawsuit against Anaheim Unified School District (AUHSD). The new Complaint details allegations by a third former student against Defendants Principal Russell Earnest, Athletic Director David Jankowski, Co-Athletic Director Dean Wang, Coach Eric Pierce, teacher Ian Sabala, and former water polo coach Joshua Owens.

The suit alleges that the Defendants concealed from the victim’s parents and law enforcement officials the fact that the victim was sexually abused and harassed by coach Owen.

Owens was a part-time girls water polo coach and swim coach at Kennedy High School within AUHSD. He was also a seasonal lifeguard for the Long Beach Fire Department.

The amended Complaint establishes a history of prior knowledge by Earnest, Pierce, Jankowski, Wang, and Sabala of alleged abuses by Owens at Kennedy High School in the Anaheim Union High School District. The lawsuit alleges that two years prior to Owens' arrest, a parent reported Owens' alleged abuse of his daughter to Coach Pierce. Then, one year later, a former student notified Teacher Sabala that Owens was alleged to be abusing students. Sabala, in turn, advised Jankowski, Wang, and Earnest of the alleged abuse. It is alleged that none of these employees of the District performed their mandatory duty and reported Owens to law enforcement.

Plaintiffs’ counsel Morgan Stewart, in comment, stated, “Child sexual abuse at Anaheim Unified High School District began as a serious problem and is becoming a full-blown scandal. Three former students have now come forward, and the District still refuses to take action against those who failed to report sexual abuse of a minor as required by law.” This case is one of two currently involving Kennedy High School coaches abusing students.

Mr. Stewart added, “To have AUHSD then continue to employ Jankowski, Wang, and Sabala, despite these failures to report, only reinforces that AUHSD tolerates the abuse of its students and rewards those who fail to report.”

The Complaint alleges that while Owens was arrested and has already served time, Earnest, Jankowski, Wang, Sabala, and Pierce were never prosecuted despite the police recognizing that they failed to report as required by the law. Rather, each of them continues to work in school environments around minors. Mr. Stewart added in response to this, “The fact that these individuals placed 14- and 15-year-old girls at risk and continue to work around children is a harbinger that should leave all parents afraid as long as their children remain in a school environment with those that fail to comply with the law and protect children.”

The Complaint notes ongoing investigations of the school and its failure to report and protect children. The Plaintiffs as part of their claims urge a complete investigation by the California Department of Education, the California Attorney General, and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Mr. Stewart said, “It is time to hold Districts and their Administrators accountable and make them realize they cannot ignore clear signs of reported abuse of students.”

Manly Stewart & Finaldi is the nation’s leading firm representing athletes in child sexual abuse cases against school districts, Universities, and Olympic Governing Bodies. They recently represented 180 alleged victims of former Olympic Team doctor Larry Nassar, resulting in a $500 million-dollar settlement against Michigan State University. In 2018, the firm settled cases against the Torrance Unified School District for $31 million on behalf of alleged victims of former wrestling coach and convicted child molester Thomas Snider, against Los Angeles Unified School district for $8 million in cases involving former football coach and convicted child molester Jamie Jimenez, and for $14 million in cases involving former Los Angeles Unified District employee Ronnie Lee Roman.

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Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

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