Five former student athletes at John F. Kennedy High School in Anaheim have been paid nearly $8 million in a settlement of their lawsuits against the Anaheim Unified School District, attorneys announced Tuesday.
The athletes, who were on the water polo and swim teams at the high school, reached the $7.95 million settlement about 45 days ago, but it wasn’t until last week that they were all paid and their cases resolved, said attorney Morgan Stewart.
Their lawsuits stemmed from sexual abuse and harassment by former water polo coach Joshua Owens, who pleaded guilty in August 2018 and was sentenced to six months in jail. Owens was a part-time girls water polo coach and swim coach at Kennedy High.
“It reflects the gravity of the situation at Anaheim Union High School District,” Stewart said of the size of the settlement.
Messages left with the school district were not immediately returned.
Nine former student athletes are also suing another former coach at the school, Barham Hojreh, who is awaiting trial on charges of sexually assaulting several girls, said Stewart, whose firm represents four of the ex-students.
“When Owens leaves, they hire Hojreh as a replacement who continues to abuse students,” Stewart alleged. “That is kind of indicative of their practices … There were significant problems with Hojreh in an ongoing case with USA Water Polo, as well as trickling down to all the individual clubs and schools where he coached.”
Stewart alleged the district “failed to supervise these people.”
Of five school officials who had information indicating the alleged abuse, three are still employed at the district despite having a legal duty to be “mandated reporters” of abuse, Stewart said.
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