Teacher forced student he impregnated to get abortion, suit says. ‘I was just a child’

A woman is suing her former teacher, accusing him of repeatedly raping her at the California high school she attended two decades ago, causing her to get pregnant when she was 15.

The lawsuit brought by “Jane Doe” was filed April 17 — nearly a month after Shawn Thomas, who is still a teacher at Leigh High School in San José, was arrested on charges of rape and sexual assault of a minor on March 22, according to police.

Thomas is accused of grooming and sexually assaulting Jane Doe “on school grounds in his portable classroom,” inside a locker room and outside of school during the 2002-2003 school year, a complaint filed in Santa Clara County says.

In the spring of 2003, he impregnated her, then forced her to have an abortion, according to the complaint.

On March 8, police received a report that a student was sexually assaulted at the high school between 2002 and 2003, and Thomas was identified as a suspect, the San José Police Department said in a March 25 news release announcing his arrest.

“I blamed myself for the last twenty years. I am just now coming to the realization that it was not my fault,” Jane Doe told McClatchy News in an April 19 statement provided by her legal counsel.

Attorney Nelson McElmurry, who represents Thomas in the criminal case, declined a request for comment from McClatchy News on April 19.

The teacher’s wife, the former school dean, knew, the suit says

Thomas’ wife, the school’s dean at the time, once found Thomas and the student alone in his classroom following one of the sexual assaults, according to the complaint.

After the student became pregnant, the complaint says the student confided in the dean that her husband was sexually assaulting her.

The dean “responded by asking (Jane Doe) how (Jane Doe) could do this to her after all she had done for (her), the complaint states.

The abuse was never reported to authorities by the dean or another school district official, according to the complaint.

“I was just a child. I tried to speak up,” Jane Doe told McClatchy News. “The school district failed to protect me.”

Jane Doe’s lawsuit names the Campbell Union High School District and several unidentified individuals who may be “responsible” or “otherwise legally liable” for what happened to her, the complaint shows.

The school district told McClatchy News on April 19 that “although the current leadership team was not at the District in 2003, they take the allegations seriously and are deeply concerned.”

Thomas is on administrative leave, according to the statement provided by Michelle Alaimo, an administrative assistant for district Superintendent Dr. Robert Bravo.

Thomas has been employed at the high school for the past 24 years, the statement said. In 2002 to 2003, he coached football at Leigh High School and simultaneously coached track and field at Los Gatos High School, according to police.

The grooming

According to the lawsuit, Thomas “gave (Jane Doe) special attention” during her freshman year.

He’d walk with her around the football field, speak with her about personal topics such as her parent’s divorce, and would touch her at school, the complaint says. Thomas is also accused of asking her to wear a skirt to school.

The abuse also took place outside of school — during the school day, according to the complaint.

Thomas would drive Jane Doe from campus, while school was in session, “to his home and to his friend’s home where he engaged in rape/sexual intercourse,” the complaint says.

Then, he’d drive her back to school, according to the complaint.

Thomas is accused of making the 15-year-old have an abortion when she was 16 weeks pregnant, Lauren Cerri, one of her attorneys, told NBC Bay Area.

“This school district bent over backwards to protect this esteemed coach and the reputation of (its) football program over the safety of the children entrusted to (its) care,” Cerri told McClatchy News on April 19.

“She spoke up. It was a cry for help. No one listened to her. Instead, they blamed her,” Cerri said.

The criminal case

Court records in Thomas’ criminal case show an arraignment was held March 26, and another arraignment is scheduled for June 5.

The school district told McClatchy News it is cooperating with authorities and “will continue working with law enforcement to protect our community and support any victims in this case.”

After the sexual assault was reported in March, the San José Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force launched an investigation that led to Thomas, police said.

The department asks members of the public who may have information about the case, or a similar case, to email Detective Camarillo at 4576@sanjoseca.gov or call 408-273-2959.

Cerri believes more victims may be out there, according to a news release issued by her law firm, Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, on April 18.

She’s also asking anyone who may have information to contact her office.

Cerri told McClatchy News that the abuse has affected “every aspect of (Jane Doe’s) life.”

“It has changed her life’s trajectory. She is not the same person. She never will be,” Cerri said.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

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