A teacher at a private all-boys high school filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the school of fostering a “boys will be boys” atmosphere in which students were not always punished for inappropriate actions towards female teachers.
The teacher is Kimberly Bohnert, a 38-year-old teacher at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California. Serra High has a reputation as an athletic powerhouse, with notable alumnus like Tom Brady, Barry Bonds, and Lynn Swann.
Bohnert recalls multiple times during her early years at the school in which she witnessed students acting inappropriately towards teachers. One student took a photograph of a female teacher’s buttocks and shared it with others. Another student was caught taking an up-skirt photograph of a teacher. Bohnert says neither student was punished significantly.
"It was very hush-hush," Bohnert said. "I was really shocked. I guess I could say I was naive on some level. I trusted the kids."
Then, Bohnert herself became a victim of the school’s environment. Two years ago, school staff discovered explicit graffiti in the bathroom about Bohnert. Administrators promised her they would investigate the matter, but no punishment was ever doled out.
“I was hoping the students would be held accountable," Bohnert said. "To not get any resolution spoke volumes about how the kids could get away with anything."
Last May, Serra’s principal called Bohnert into his office and told her about a rumor that a student filmed up her skirt while she was teaching and sent it out to other students at the school. Bohnert confronted several students about the rumor, who confirmed it was true.
"One kid was describing my private parts in the hallway," she said. "It was humiliating. I was mortified."
All six students involved in the video’s creation and dissemination were expelled. Regardless, Bohnert says many other similar incidents at the school have gone unpunished.
Her lawyer spoke to the Contra Costa Times recently about the lawsuit.
"Even though they are a private all-boys school, even though they are run by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, they are like any other employer and have an obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment," said attorney Deborah Kochan. "Once it happens they have a legal obligation to investigate to understand the full scope and then to fix it."
Serra High School released a two page response to stories in the media about Bohnert’s lawsuit. The statement reiterates that administrators promptly punished the students who filmed Bohnert.
"We have not shied away from the challenges that our community faced last year," the statement says. "Rather, we reflected on those challenges during several student educational assemblies as an opportunity to deepen our commitment to our core educational mission -- that of creating men of faith, wisdom, service, community and leadership."