John O’Connell students react to teacher accused of sexual assault

John O'Connell High School Photo by Kathleen Narruhn

As John O’Connell High School students left school on Friday, students talked about the physical education teacher and soccer coach who more than 30 female students have accused of sexual assault.

The teacher, Bob Gamino, was placed on administrative leave in May after several students accused him of sexual assault. After other students stepped forward with similar complaints during an investigation, Gamino retired “in lieu of termination,” according to San Francisco Unified School District officials. Nonetheless, he received full pension and benefits.

The school’s acting principal, Mark Alvarado, was on leave during the investigation, but was transferred to Everett Middle School this fall for failing to report earlier incidents. On Thursday, Alvarado was removed from the middle school.

One female student who, like others spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Gamino allegedly targeted “girls who were into sports.”

“I had him last year,” she added. “But he didn’t say anything to me. Some rumors were going around last year that he was touching people.”

Many students said they had been hearing rumors long before Gamino left in May.

“It wasn’t a surprise when he got fired, because a lot of kids have been saying he’s been inappropriately touching kids,” said one male student, a junior. “I didn’t believe it at first, but since a lot of kids started talking about it recently, I started to believe it more. Now I definitely believe it.”

A group of senior boys standing outside El Faro in the stifling heat also had some views on Gamino, who had worked in the school district since 1994.

“He was doing stuff he shouldn’t be doing,” said one of the young men, who had Gamino as a sophomore. “During lunch, he would only let girls into his classroom.”

But, he added that Gamino’s departure was controversial, because much of the student body respected him.

“A lot of people don’t believe he did it because people looked up to him,” the student said.  “He seemed like an OK guy to me. He didn’t give off a bad vibe.”

Another senior in the group added, “I personally liked Gamino, but he was a little strange. He collected Spider-Man and comic stuff, a lot of figurines. He was a huge fan of Spider-Man. I personally thought he was cool.”

The group of young male students also talked about their former principal, Alvarado, who — according to several media reports — was fired for being aware of Gamino’s alleged misconduct and failing to report it to the school district.

One of the boys said a teacher told his class on Tuesday that Alvarado tried to solve the matter with Gamino internally and “gave him a good talking-to or something,” and may have told parents of the alleged victims without reporting it to the district.   

Susan Ryan, who became interim principal during Alvarado’s leave, launched a district and criminal investigation in May after being approached by several girls who complained about verbal and physical sexual harassment by Gamino. She explained the reasons for the investigation in a letter to parents.

The investigation, which lasted through the summer, revealed that at least 30 students alleged that they had been sexually assaulted by the soccer coach. Within days of receiving the first complaint, she received support from the district to place Gamino on administrative leave.

There was no mention of Alvarado’s involvement in Ryan’s letter, and she declined to comment for this article.  

Gentle Blythe, a spokesperson for the school district, said in a statement that Alvarado was on medical leave at the time the district became aware of the sexual harassment allegations.

While still on leave, Alvarado was transferred to Everett Middle School for the 2017-2018 school year, after the district said he failed to report the accusations of two students two years ago. He has since left the middle school. Alvarado took over as principal at John O’Connell in September 2012.

You may also like:

One Comment

  1. Anna P

    No mention of reporting to CPS/police as required by State law? School personnel are mandated reporters. It’s not just a matter of reporting to school officials and district to do there own investigation and take action on behalf of school district. If this had been reported to authorities when it first became known, maybe there wouldn’t be 30+ victims.

Comments are closed.

Full name required to post. For full details, read our Policy