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Lawsuit: California Teacher Abused 15-Year-Old Student, Forced Her to Undergo Abortion

— April 18, 2024

Attorneys for the pseudonymous plaintiff claim that a former Leigh High School teacher–and suspected sex predator–coerced a teenage student into a relationship, then forced her to undergo an abortion.

A California woman has filed an alarming lawsuit against Campbell Union High School District in San Jose, claiming that a former teacher coerced her into a sexual relationship before forcing her to undergo an abortion.

According to The Mercury News, the complaint was filed on behalf of a plaintiff identified in court documents only by the pseudonym “Jane Doe.” In her lawsuit, Doe alleges that she was impregnated by Thomas in 2003. Doe was, at the time, a 15-year-old freshman at Leigh High School.

Attorneys for Doe indicated that Campbell district administrators knew, or should have known, about the relationship between Doe and Thomas. In one incident detailed in court documents, Thomas’s own wife—then the dean of Leigh High School—almost interrupted Doe and Thomas have intercourse in a classroom.

After Doe became pregnant and informed Sarah Thomas, though, she allegedly responded by blaming Doe.

Neither the dean, nor anybody else at the school, ever reported suspicions of ongoing abuse.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“Leigh High School had every opportunity to prevent the abuse of my client,” said Lauren Cerri, an attorney representing Doe. “There were red flags everywhere that Shawn Thomas was a sexual predator. Even worse, a direct report was made by my client and completely ignored.”

Cerri also told The Mercury Times that it is “almost unbelievable” that administrators like Sarah Thomas blamed the then-15-year-old for suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a mentor.

“It’s egregious, beyond egregious, it’s almost unbelievable,” Cerri told the Times in an interview. “There is no gray area. A coach is having sex with a student, and not only does his wife turn a blind eye, but there is class victim-blaming.”

Doe, adds the Times, eventually approached the San Jose Police Department, resulting in Shawn Thomas’s arrest on March 22.

Thomas has since been charged with one count of rape, one count of sexual penetration of a minor, and five counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor.

“There is not [sic] statute of limitations when this involves a minor, and the fact that this was a teacher—we take this very seriously,” said San Jose PD Senior Public Relations Representative Stacie Shih.

Campbell Union High School District has since released a statement—reprinted, in part, by both CBS News and The Mercury Times—emphasizing that its administration has changed significantly since the time of the alleged abuse, and that the district is cooperating fully with law enforcement.

“Although the current leadership team was not at the District in 2003, they take the allegations seriously and are deeply concerned,” a district spokesperson said. “The District remains prepared to continue to cooperate with law enforcement through their investigation, and provide access to all necessary information.”

“Our foremost commitment,” the district said, “remains the safety and well-being of our students, families, and staff. We will continue working with law enforcement to protect our community and support any victims in this case.”


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