Report: California HS did not properly vet sex abuse claims against water polo coach, AD admitted in deposition

Former Kennedy assistant water polo and swimming coach Joshua Owens (Photo: Buena Park Police Department) Photo: Buena Park Police Department

Report: California HS did not properly vet sex abuse claims against water polo coach, AD admitted in deposition

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Report: California HS did not properly vet sex abuse claims against water polo coach, AD admitted in deposition

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When Kennedy High School (La Palma, Calif.) assistant water polo coach Joshua Owens met with a school athletic director about allegations of sexual abuse against girls on the team, he was cleared within hours, according to depositions acquired by the Orange County Register.

That athletic director, Dave Jankowski, and other officials at the school did not interview the freshman Owens was accused of targeting, the girl on the team Owens had sexually harassed, or the former player who had notified the school of the claims, according to the outlet.

Kennedy High did not report the allegations against Owen to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

That meeting occurred in 2015.

Owens was eventually arrested in November 2016 on accusations that he “continue(d)” to abuse two athletes, begin abusing a freshman in 2016 and “at least” two other students in that year, according to the OC Register.

MORE: Four players file lawsuits against Owens | Kennedy HS did not report coach | School swept allegations under the rug

Owens admitted to molesting a 15-year-old in a car in the faculty parking lot during school hours, the outlet reported. He pleaded guilty in August to one count of oral copulation with a victim younger than 16, one count of sexual penetration of a victim younger than 16 and six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance, according to the OC Register.

He was sentenced to six months in jail, according to plea agreement documents obtained by the OC Register.

Joshua Christopher Owens, 23, of La Palma (Photo: Buena Park Police Department)

Joshua Christopher Owens (Photo: Buena Park Police Department)

An athletic director at the school, Dean Wang, was asked in the deposition if he thinks he handled the Owens case correctly.

“I do not think I did,” he responded, according to the OC Register.

Wang did not consider getting in touch with the person who accused Owens until after Owens had been arrested – about 11 months after the meeting between the two.

He said he did not report Owens because he thought he did not have enough information, according to the OC Register.

Four officials, including Wang and Jankowski, knew about the allegations as early as December 2014, according to the OC Register. Owens said Kennedy principal Russell Earnest gave him a “verbal warning” and told him “Don’t do anything stupid, basically.”

In December 2015, Kennedy teacher Ian Sabala received a message from a former water polo player at the school telling him Owens was trying to “get at one of the freshman players” and it wasn’t the first time he had “tried to date a player.”

“Last year he actually dated one of the players and when it was brought to the attention of the head coach it was quickly swept under the rug,” she wrote.

Sabala forwarded the emails to Earnest, Jankowski and Wang.

Jankowski told Earnest after the meeting that Owens agreed to “no longer put himself in a position where he would be alone with a student,” according to the OC Register.

Then-water polo head coach Eric Pierce said he wasn’t shown the emails until January 2017 and that he “definitely” would have reported them.

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Report: California HS did not properly vet sex abuse claims against water polo coach, AD admitted in deposition
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