The student who said former San Luis Obispo High School basketball coach Jeff Brandow sexually harassed her is suing the school district and Brandow.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges the district ignored a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Brandow that had been occurring since at least 2014. That behavior eventually led to the student being “targeted” and sexually harassed, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit follows Brandow’s firing from the school in August. He was placed on administrative leave in March, five months after the district learned of the allegations, Superintendent Eric Prater told The Tribune in July.
After the school district learned of the student’s allegations in October 2022, Brandow continued teaching and coached the boys basketball team to a league championship. He was originally hired about a decade ago to be the high school’s athletic director until Marci Beddall replaced him in 2020.
The student, who is unnamed in the lawsuit, is suing Brandow and San Luis Coastal Unified School District for emotional distress, sexual harassment and negligence.
According to the lawsuit, the student is a victim of grooming, manipulation, intimidation and unwanted physical touching.
The district did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Brandow also did not respond to calls or texts from The Tribune about the lawsuit. Court records show there was an attempt to serve the lawsuit to Brandow on Monday, but it was unsuccessful.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department and San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office both told The Tribune there is no criminal investigation against Brandow at this time.
Former basketball coach has long history of harassment at SLO High, lawsuit says
According to the lawsuit, the student was not Brandow’s first alleged victim of sexual harassment.
In 2014, the lawsuit said, a trainer who worked with San Luis Obispo High School’s basketball team reached out to then-principal Leslie O’Connor to report inappropriate behavior from Brandow.
Brandow was a teacher and head basketball coach at the school at the time.
According to the lawsuit, the trainer told O’Connor that Brandow made comments about students’, coaches’ and parents’ bodies, drank beer at a school sports event, insinuated he had sex with students while he worked in the San Diego area, commented on the trainer’s body, asked if students pursued her for sex and threatened to punch the trainer in the face.
“After making the trainer feel silly for complaining,” the lawsuit said, “O’Connor told her, ‘I know the number of people who know about this on one hand. Let’s keep it that way.”
Brandow then harassed a coach he supervised when he was athletic director a few years later, the lawsuit alleges.
Brandow allegedly told the coach he thought she was attractive, the lawsuit said, then told her “the high school boys probably hit on you.”
The lawsuit alleges Brandow would tried to get the coach, who was married with two students attending the high school at the time, to meet him at a bar.
Brandow would also “routinely” text the coach in the middle of the night asking her to meet with him.
Then, in 2018, a KSBY reporter filed a restraining order against Brandow alleging he was “obsessed” with her and stalked her.
According to that restraining order application, Brandow would show up at her home unannounced, stalked her home and called her 50 to 100 times daily “at all hours,” constantly sent messages to her work and personal email, and left hundreds of handwritten letters at the woman’s home.
In one letter, Brandow — who was married at the time — offered to pay the woman $1,000 to talk, $10,000 for one to two dates and $20,000 to be “all in.”
That reporter left San Luis Obispo County and journalism as a result of Brandow’s conduct, the lawsuit said.
Brandow was also “permanently barred” from a local bar and restaurant in 2018 for sexually harassing staff and customers, the lawsuit said. Brandow slapped a bartender’s buttocks while attempting to persuade her to go to a massage parlor with him and “bragged about snorting cocaine and his sexual prowess while harassing both female customers and staff,” the lawsuit said.
A mother also complained to San Luis Obsipo High School that Brandow was verbally abusive toward her son.
Lawsuit: Former teacher routinely had inappropriate conversations with female students
According to the lawsuit, the student who filed the suit had Brandow for a history teacher during the 2021-22 school year when she was a junior.
The student “immediately observed” Brandow having inappropriate conversations with female students in class, the lawsuit said, such as asking a female student about her sex life and giving her advice.
Brandow told the student who filed the lawsuit he wished he could have sex with the girls he came across, the lawsuit said, and would make inappropriate comments to students about their attire.
“For example, Brandow routinely stated to the (student), ‘It’s a tits-out, ass-out kind of day’ to her and other female students he perceived wearing low-cut T-shirts,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges Brandow made comments to the student about her breasts and buttocks daily and gave her unwanted hugs and asked her about her dating life regularly.
Brandow began targeting the student toward the end of that school year “with an ultimate intent of engaging in a sexual relationship with her,” the lawsuit said.
Brandow would attempt to talk to her about sex, asked her to meet him at bars and told her they should “hang out” once she graduated high school, the lawsuit said.
He also would share details of “hooking up” with college girls on weekends, the lawsuit said.
Brandow moved the student’s desk closer to his “so he could be closer to her,” the lawsuit said, and would regularly tap and rub her legs.
The student also noticed Brandow looking at her Instagram profile on a classroom computer, the lawsuit said. He would “inject himself” into group photos with the student and her friends, the lawsuit said, insisting on standing next to the student with his hands on her back or waist.
Students see inappropriate texts at party, lawsuit says
Brandow’s comments and interactions toward the student escalated the following academic year when the student became a senior, according to the laswuit.
The student and her friends began working at a pumpkin patch owned by Brandow’s wife in October 2022, the lawsuit said. Brandow’s wife would text the student’s friends about their schedules, but Brandow “made a point” of texting her directly.
Brandow would regular schedule the student to work early morning shifts with just him, the lawsuit said. Brandow would flirt and make comments about her looks during these shifts.
He also sent the student texts that included him shirtless, asking her to meet at a bar, telling her to be flirty with him and messages about what he wanted to do with her sexually.
The student “was extremely uncomfortable with all of this but did not know what to do,” the lawsuit said.
Later that month, the lawsuit said, the student received a text from Brandow while at a friend’s birthday party. She was showing the text to a friend when another student grabbed her phone, read the text out loud to partygoers and said, “Yo, he’s getting fired.”
Another partygoer was coincidentally video taping the scene.
“They all immediately realized that Brandow was attempting to get the (student) to engage in sexual relations with him and said, ‘He is going to prison’ based upon the text messages,” the lawsuit said.
At the student’s next pumpkin patch shift, the lawsuit said, Brandow “forcefully” grabbed her arm and demanded she delete the texts. She told him she would do it when she got home, but Brandow told her to “do it now.”
The student was “terrified and intimidated” and began deleting the messages. As she deleted the messages, the lawsuit said, Brandow pressed his body against her, put his crotch on her him and elbow against her breast.
He told the student “nobody could know about this” and asked her to save his phone number under the name “Thomas,” the lawsuit said.
The next school day, the lawsuit said, Brandow grabbed the student’s arm and told her she was ruining his life because students were openly talking about him.
Lawsuit: School administration told student to not tell parents about alleged harassment
According to the lawsuit, the school received an anonymous tip line concern and an in-person concern regarding Brandow’s texts to the student.
The student was called to administration and met with the assistant principal, Desiree Dellinger, who “demanded” the student tell her about Brandow’s texts.
The student told Dellinger everything Brandow had done to her since he became her history teacher, the lawsuit said, and Dellinger and a security guard took the student’s phone to view the texts. Dellinger took photos of the texts from her phone.
Principal Rollin Dickinson joined the meeting 30 minutes later, and the student had to re-explain what she had told Dellinger, according to the lawsuit, leaving the student feeling like she was in an interrogation.
Dellinger allegedly told the student not to tell anyone about the texts, including her parents, the lawsuit said.
When the student saw Brandow still at school even after what she told the principal and assistant principal, she was distraught.
She had a panic attack in the school parking lot and drove to her sister’s dorm room at a nearby university, the lawsuit said.
That’s when the student’s mother was notified her daughter wasn’t at school, and the student’s sister told their mother what the girl had been going through.
The mother immediately called Dellinger through the school email, the lawsuit said, and Dellinger responded that she would call after she finished a meeting.
Five hours later, the lawsuit said, Dellinger called, and the mother expressed her concerns.
Dellinger gave the mother an account of events that did not align with the experiences her daughter shared, the lawsuit said.
The mother was outraged that the school instructed her daughter to not inform her parents about the meeting, the lawsuit said.
Brandow continued teaching at the high school despite the student’s complaints, information from students who could corroborate the texts, and experiences shared by other female students that could corroborate Brandow’s alleged inappropriate behavior.
“The reality was San Luis Obispo High School administration was more concerned about Brandow coaching the men’s basketball team to a league championship then they were about the (student’s) health and well-being,” the lawsuit said. The student “was forced to attend school in constant fear” as he was allowed to teach for the majority of her senior year.
The student was ostracized and harassed by kids who sided with Brandow, and she would receive inappropriate messages and calls from blocked numbers. The one time the student answered a call, the lawsuit said, a male student asked the if he could “tap that like Brandow did.”
The lawsuit alleges the harassment was a result of the school district’s failure to take meaningful action in response to the student’s complaints and the district’s failure to terminate his employment for prior misconduct.
The school district has approximately 30 days to file a formal response with the court. The next court date is scheduled for April 8.