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Former Francis Parker School student files suit over alleged teacher sexual abuse

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Posted at 12:59 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 17:39:03-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former student at Francis Parker School in Linda Vista went public Friday about a lawsuit she filed against school administrators, claiming they ignored signs of grooming and inappropriate behavior by a former teacher who she claims sexually abused her beginning when she was 13 years old.

Grace Winn, who has since graduated from the K-12 private school, alleges her basketball coach and history teacher, Miguel Cembrano, groomed and sexually abused her in 2014 and 2015. Winn and her attorneys allege that his inappropriate behavior around her, which included isolating her from other students in a secluded classroom, should have been recognized by school staff.

In March of 2015, Cembrano was fired by the school. He later worked at another area school, where Winn's attorneys allege he sexually abused a student, then committed suicide before that alleged assault could be fully investigated. ABC 10News is not naming the school until the criminal complaint is verified.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court, Winn learned that his firing from Francis Parker was "because of inappropriate conduct with a student."

Winn's attorney, Jessica Pride, alleged that rather than notify parents or the authorities as to why Cembrano was fired, he was instead allowed to "quietly exit." The attorney said the school's staff was aware of the allegations but failed to notify the police or Child Protective Services as required by law for mandated reporters.

Pride said, "They put their reputation and financial gain first, at her expense."

A representative for the school declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit's allegations, but issued a written statement saying, "At Francis Parker School, we take all alleged incidents extremely seriously. Our school's values are founded on putting students first and providing an environment for learning where students are safe, both physically and emotionally."

The school's attorney, David Molinari, said Francis Parker School denies the allegations and said, "We will put our faith in the judicial system and judicial process as opposed to litigating on social media or outside the legal system."

The lawsuit against the school also names as defendants Kevin Yaley, the school's headmaster; Dan Lang, who was the head of the middle school; and Christi Cole, who was the assistant head of the middle school.

At a news conference announcing the lawsuit's filing, Winn described herself as a Francis Parker "lifer," who attended the school since she was in kindergarten. She said her intent with the lawsuit was not to exact revenge, but rather to seek systemic change at the school in order to prevent any similar incidents with other students.

"I am holding Parker to the same values that they have preached to me since I was 5 years old," Winn said.

ABC 10News does not typically publish the names of alleged sexual abuse victims, but Grace Winn has consented to the public use of her name and filed the lawsuit under her true name.