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Westchester student sues L.A. Unified, alleges sexual abuse by assistant basketball coach

A South Bay high school student has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District, alleging that she was sexually abused by an assistant coach on her basketball team.

The Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets student, who is not identified in court records, alleges Juan “John” Colon began abusing her when she was 15. Neither school nor district officials did anything to intervene and actively worked to cover up Colon’s conduct, the lawsuit alleges.

An L.A. Unified spokesperson said the district "does not typically comment on any and all pending or ongoing litigation matters."

Colon was arrested in early January and charged with two counts of felony unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, stemming back to alleged offenses on July 1. He was also charged with a misdemeanor count of annoying/molesting a minor that allegedly took place June 1.

He posted bond shortly after being taken into custody, records show, and is due back in court on Feb. 20. It's not clear if he has a lawyer.

Colon, 50, “intentionally, recklessly and wantonly” committed unwanted sexual acts, including engaging in “sexual touching, contact and conduct with the plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that Colon harassed the girl — "grooming" her for abuse by providing financial assistance and then demanding money back, isolating and talking with her through social media, and confiding in her about his personal life.

“This has been a very difficult time for my client, going through the initial trauma and reliving this,” said her attorney, Morgan A. Stewart, a partner at the Irvine-based firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi. “Now she’s suffering through the acknowledgment that she was taken advantage of and should have never been on the campus. It’s tough at any age, but worse in your teens.”

At one point, the teen lived with Colon for an undisclosed time and listed him as her emergency contact, her lawyers noted.

The girl's family became aware of the alleged abuse on Jan. 4, according to the lawsuit, and the Los Angeles Police Department arrested Colon the next day.

“This whole lawsuit is what I would call a rolling ball of mistakes with one thing after another,” Stewart said. “But it started with this: If you follow LAUSD’s hiring practices, he would have never reached a campus.”

Colon is alleged to have been employed as a coach and tutor at Westchester, though no record was found through Transparent California, which compiles compensation data for a variety of public sector employees in a searchable database. The plaintiff’s attorneys also allege Colon was hired without a background check, which would have run afoul of L.A. Unified policy.

“While we don’t know his exact employment status, he was clearly there at practices and at games,” Stewart said. “We don’t know if he was a walk-on or on a contract or the exact arrangements.”

The district did not comment on his employment status.

The lawsuit also alleges that female students reported “the sexual nature of behavior” Colon was engaging in “while alone with female minors” to school administrators.

Colon was questioned about his actions but not reported to law enforcement, the lawsuit states. He was told to “discontinue sexual behavior with students but failed to do so,” according to the lawsuit.

The girls' basketball team is set to open the quarterfinal round of the CIF Los Angeles City Section playoffs on Saturday, hosting El Camino Real.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.