Six former football players from Colton High School in San Bernardino County are suing the Colton Joint Unified School District and its former athletic coach for sexually abusing them more than a decade ago.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in San Bernardino County Superior Court, was filed under Assembly Bill 218, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and gives victims of all ages three years to file cases. The statute of limitations for statutory rape in California is one year for a misdemeanor charge and three years for a felony charge.
The men, identified as John Does in the lawsuit, allege that they were sexually assaulted by school athletic coach Tiffany Gordon in the 2000s when they were college football players. She is the daughter of former school head coach and athletic director Harold Strauss, who died in 2019. Gordon began working for the district around 2001 and most recently served as the athletic director of Grand Terrace High School.
They also allege that other members of the football team, the players’ parents and staff knew of Gordon’s alleged misconduct between 2002 and 2006 and that the school district failed to report and investigate the alleged abuse.
“Despite rampant rumors of Gordon’s wrongdoing, CJUSD knowingly, intentionally, willfully, willfully, negligently and/or recklessly permitted Gordon to continue to abuse the Colton High School collegiate football players, including the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit reads. “In doing so, the defendants have fostered a pervasive and hostile environment that has a complete disregard for the rights and safety of underage athletes entrusted to CJUSD.”
The district confirmed in a statement that Gordon has been placed on administrative leave and the district has “made itself fully available to the Colton Police Department.”
Gordon did not respond to multiple requests for comment Monday.
“Although the current members of the administration team did not hold a leadership role in the district 20 years ago, the district leadership team is extremely concerned about the allegations made,” the district said in a statement. “Our commitment is always to the safety and well-being of our students, families and staff and we will work with local law enforcement to protect our community and assist all victims in this case.”
John Doe 7042, who began visiting Colton in 2001 and joined the varsity football team during his freshman year, said he was sexually assaulted by Gordon while seeking treatment for his injuries. The abuse escalated weeks later when he was allegedly raped by Gordon in the school locker room while his teammates were training. During the remainder of his high school years, John Doe 7042 was allegedly raped on campus, including the locker room, bathrooms, weight room, exercise room, and football trailer.
John Doe 7047, who joined the football team in the fall of 2000 as a sophomore, claims he was also sexually abused by Gordon. When he was 16, he said Gordon allegedly raped him, which continued through the rest of his high school career.
According to the lawsuit, John Doe 7043 transferred to high school during his senior year in the fall of 2003, when he was 17 years old. The alleged abuse began during the 2003 football season when Gordon allegedly began flirting with the then-student, including asking him out on a date at a drive-in movie theater and sexually assaulting him in the back seat of the car. John Doe 7043 said during dinner at the Strauss home that he saw Gordon leave the room with John Doe 7047, who later told him that in this case Gordon had sexually abused him.
John Doe 7044 heard rumors during his freshman year that Gordon allegedly abused students, according to the lawsuit. During his senior year, he reportedly confronted Gordon with texts about the rumours; In return, Gordon reportedly told him to send her pictures of his penis and sent her nude photos of himself. She allegedly sexually assaulted him in the dressing room the next day and the abuse continued throughout his senior year until he ended his contract with her.
John Doe 7046 also claims to have been sexually abused by Gordon while he was on the team. On Halloween 2007, he alleged that Gordon sexually abused him in the dressing room when Strauss interrupted them and asked why the lights were out. Gordon reportedly said they would “just close up and leave.” The alleged abuse continued throughout John Doe 7046’s final year.
One of the men, John Doe 7045, also said he told a coach that he and another student were considering telling the district about Gordon’s alleged wrongdoing. The coach’s wife then told him that Gordon “would probably blame the students for their wrongdoing” and the administration would not believe him because of Gordon’s authority and status. The men did not report the misconduct to the school.
The men said they believed the alleged abuse was “normal and even praised” because the coaches downplayed the attacks. They said it “significantly influenced and shaped students’ perceptions of intimacy, relationships, and responsibility at a young and impressionable age.”
“The scale of the abuse and the number of people involved underscores the importance of this lawsuit, particularly from an institutional perspective,” said Brian Williams, attorney for Greenberg and Gross representing the alleged victims. “This level of systemic abuse illustrates what can happen when a school district fails to properly monitor its own staff and the students they serve. Educational institutions need to protect children better.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-03/sexual-abuse-high-school-football-players-athletic-trainer-colton 6 former Colton High School football players allege sexual abuse by ex-coach’s daughter