What’s going on at Los Gatos High School?
This is a serious question facing the school and school district after a wave of allegations of mostly off-campus sexual misconduct on social media by current and former students.
It all started with Mia Lozoya.
“I was raped,” Lozoya told the Investigation Unit.
Lozoya was a freshman at Los Gatos High School (LGHS) in February 2020 when she said she had a drink in a house with an upper class man.
“Little by little, I begged him to stop. He wouldn’t, ”she said. “I vividly remember closing my eyes so tight and just waiting for it to be over, and my head was just hitting a wall.”
“He dropped me off at the end of the street,” she said.
Mia Lozoya shares her experience of being sexually assaulted, she says, by another high school student in Los Gatos last year.
According to court documents, Lozoya reported to police that she had previously been with her alleged attacker, but this time she did not consent and told him to stop. Sexual assault is defined as any sexual contact for which the victim does not give clear consent.
Lozoya stopped going to school. She couldn’t sleep. She eventually collapsed and told her mother later that month, she said.
She and her parents went to the police and filed a report with the Los Gatos – Saratoga Union School District under Title IX.
Title IX is a law banning sex discrimination in federally funded schools, requiring schools to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
Lozoya and his parents say school officials weren’t ready for his Title IX case.
The school district did not have a Title IX coordinator at the time and hired Hirschfeld Kraemer, an outside law firm, to help. The person from the company treated Lozoya callously, she said, which caused her to shut down emotionally. The high school recruit said she was listed as “uncooperative.”
The school district has completed the Title IX investigation. The investigator concluded that the school, school district and the accused student were not responsible for a Title IX violation, according to Lozoya’s family. They were appalled at the results, they told NBC Bay Area.
Superintendent Mike Grove wrote in an email: “We take allegations of harassment or sexual assault seriously and do everything we can within the law to properly investigate situations, support them. students and educate our students and staff on these issues. ”
Lozoya and her family also learned that prosecutors refused to charge her alleged attacker, citing a lack of evidence.
“I just remember feeling so broken,” Lozoya said. “I knew I was not alone.”
In June 2020, Lozoya shared his experience on Instagram. His post led to a movement.
The movements started with fellow students and alumni – like Abbi Berry, Sophie Adams and Sasha Ryu – forming the From Survivors For Survivors group and creating the @MeTooLGHS Instagram page. On the page, dozens of other current and former LGHS teens shared similar stories of sexual misconduct they believe were committed by other students.
Some of the stories are decades ago, but most are in recent years.
This grassroots student movement also sparked a rally and even a documentary.
According to Los Gatos – Saratoga Union High School District, he has only received four reports of sexual assault from students in the past five years, including incidents from his other high school in Saratoga.
The number of reports may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, teens who lived in different households were discouraged from coming together in groups. And, regardless of when the assault happened, the youth counseling nonprofit CASSY says students have likely faced more reportable barriers over the past year.
“Since we are not physically on campus, this dismissal has not happened so aggressively,” said Marico Sayoc, executive director of CASSY and mayor of Los Gatos.
Sayoc said it was possible there were more incidents than those reported via the @MeTooLGHS Instagram page.
Monitoring student sexual assault
Tracking sexual assaults involving students is difficult. The Investigation Unit found that many Bay Area school districts are monitoring incidents involving their students, but some do not or have just started. Our team also couldn’t find an organization that compiled comprehensive data from different sources such as the police and schools. In fact, one school district stated that “the authorities are not required to inform the school”.
Superintendet Grove wrote in an email to NBC Bay Area. Off-campus crime is “one of the biggest challenges a school or district faces.”
And there are cases where the alleged victims don’t come forward immediately, like Lyssa Broomfield.
Broomfield was a freshman at LGHS in 2015 when she was sexually assaulted by a junior who was her neighbor, she said.
“I was 14 years old. I had maybe drunk once or twice and was not doing well, ”she says. “[A friend and I] went to his house … then my mind [went] black, everything has turned black. I almost woke up with him raping myself in his mother’s room, and I was frozen and crying.
Broomfield said she woke up the next morning in her own bed.
“I was just trying to figure out what had happened, I went knocking on his door and yelled at him, ‘What did you do last night?’ And he grabbed me and pinned me on the couch, ”Broomfield said. “I punched him in the nose as hard as I could, and he started to spill blood.
Lyssa Broomfield opens up about her reported sexual assault in 2015 and the nightmare she says she followed.
Broomfield said she didn’t feel safe enough to report her assault. She remained silent for over two years. During this time, she developed multiple disorders and became suicidal.
“I didn’t think anyone would believe me in any way,” Broomfield said.
She has attempted suicide twice, she said.
Ignoring the source of his daughter’s mental decline, but it’s clear something was wrong, Lyssa’s father Scott Broomfield quit his job as a member of the Los Gatos K-8 School District Board of Directors. and moved with her daughter from Los Gatos.
Lyssa Broomfield finally told her father. At that time, she was no longer a student at LGHS. She and her father again filed a police report, and after about six months, prosecutors refused to press charges for lack of evidence.
Scott Broomfield, Lyssa’s father, reads a letter he wrote under the title: “To the father of my daughter’s rapist”.
The Investigation Unit contacted the families of the alleged attackers from Lozoya and Broomfield. One did not respond and the other made no comment.
“I will forever be indebted to Mia, Abbi and my daughter and the many others who have shown me this truth,” said Scott Broomfield.
School districts react differently to sexual assault by students
The investigation unit contacted 50 Bay Area K-12 school districts to inquire about their policies regarding student misconduct on and off campus. We have found that schools respond differently to reported sexual assault. Some say – whether the incident happened on campus or off campus – they have policies to hold abusers accountable. Most however, including Los Gatos – Saratoga Union High School District, said that if the misconduct had occurred off campus, the situation was out of their control.
These school districts cite the California Education Code, which states that schools can only discipline students for school-related misconduct. Until Title IX, which is a federal law, schools can take action in the event of off-campus incidents if it subsequently impacts the school.
For Lozoya, Los Gatos High School offered to change her schedule so that she does not see her alleged abuser.
“I just remember feeling so broken and even more scared, not even for myself, but for the other girls,” she said.
The school district’s response
Superintendent Grove and his staff refused several interview requests with the investigative unit.
In emails, Grove said the district took action by hiring a Title IX coordinator last year, launching an independent investigation and expanding the council to students. He pointed out that the school’s jurisdiction is limited when the alleged misconduct occurs off campus.
In a mass email to staff and parents ahead of the publication of this NBC Bay Area survey, Grove detailed more prevention efforts by the school district. He also provided this pre-recorded video of their new Title IX coordinator.
- To learn more about this investigation, including victim and family resources, visit our #MeTooLGHS page.
But when students convicted of abuse are allowed back to campus – as in the 2012 sexual assault and suicide of Saratoga High School student Audrie Pott – #MeTooLGHS organizers say it sends a message harmful.
In Part 2 of the NBC Bay Area investigation, the investigative unit explores concerns over the school district’s missteps in the Pott case and why his family says it may have set the stage for what is currently happening at Los Gatos High School.
Watch the survey in our 11 p.m. newscasts on Thursday, April 29.
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with the NBC Bay Area Investigation Unit. Email him about this story or others at firstname.lastname@example.org.