High school district settles sexual abuse lawsuit brought by former Los Gatos track star

The Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District has agreed to pay a former student-athlete $3.485 million for the sexual abuse she endured for more than three years.

Beginning in 1999, student “Jane Doe” was abused by Los Gatos High School Assistant Track Coach Chioke Robinson, who began grooming her to accept his sexual advances when she was a 14-year-old freshman. The grooming escalated, and Robinson began having intercourse with Jane when she was 15.

Jane’s settlement was negotiated by Corsiglia McMahon & Allard attorney Lauren Cerri.

“This tragedy never should have happened,” Cerri said. “Another young female track athlete testified that she told head coach Willie Harmatz in 1998 that she was uncomfortable around Robinson. That girl’s complaints fell on deaf ears. All Harmatz did in response was tell the girl to run on the other side of the track away from where Robinson was training the girls’ track team.”

In late 1999, Jane’s mother found a discarded pregnancy test in her wastebasket, along with a love letter from Robinson. Administrators at the high school including Principal Trudy McCulloch and Coach Willie Harmatz were informed.

“When another student disclosed that she had seen Robinson abusing Jane, Harmatz went to the girl’s house and threatened to ruin her athletic career if she didn’t stop ‘lying’ about Robinson, according to sworn testimony from the student,” Cerri said. “Harmatz should have taken steps to protect this student but he instead covered up the brewing scandal.”

Robinson was never disciplined; he was finally fired in March 2001.

“Even after other students told the school they had seen Robinson kissing me and engaging in sexual acts with me, the school allowed him to continue coaching,” Jane said. “They cared more about the track team winning than protecting students.”

And make no mistake – Jane was a winner from a very young age: She participated in the Junior Olympics and broke all the records in the high jump for her age group. By the time she was 11 years old, Jane was the second-best high jumper in the state.

But her dreams of becoming an Olympian were shattered by the abuse that was enabled by the school district.

“I was a popular kid in high school,” Jane said. “I had a lot of friends but Robinson took control of my life by alienating me from my family and friends. It happened very quickly – everyone you know becomes a stranger because you’re no longer a part of them and they’re no longer a part of you. So then it was just him.”

Robinson’s hold on Jane continued until she was 21.

Robinson was finally arrested in February 2019 by the San Jose Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and charged with 19 counts of sexually assaulting numerous girls, including Jane Doe. Robinson’s trial is set for Nov. 7.

Although Jane Doe’s sexual abuse occurred in the late ‘90s, she was able to sue the Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District because of Assembly Bill 218, which extends the California statute of limitations and allows older sexual abuse claims to be litigated through December 2022.

“The window on these cases is closing,” Cerri said. “It’s imperative that sexual abuse victims come forward now.”