Three former students of an El Segundo water polo coach are accusing the man of alleged sexual abuse that took place over several years in a new lawsuit.
George Harris Jr., a former geography teacher and water polo coach at El Segundo High School, was named in the suit filed by the three young men who were not identified. The alleged abuse took place between 2002-2010.
The lawsuit also names the El Segundo Unified School District, claiming officials were aware of the issues and allowed the abuse to continue. The plaintiffs said Harris abused his position as a trusted father figure and confidant while grooming, harassing and abusing them for years.
Harris joined the El Segundo Unified School District as a teacher in 1981 before joining the water polo staff at El Segundo High in 1991. He left the school in 2009, reportedly due to an unknown medical condition, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
“I can’t tell you how beloved of a teacher he was,” said a victim, identified as 32-year-old John Doe to protect his identity. “He was the favorite teacher, the goofball teacher.”
“I am going to prove, and I will prove that the school, not only did they know, there was definitely more than one situation where the school was notified, and it was through various channels,” said lawyer Ruth Rizkalla.
It is unclear if district officials tried to notify law enforcement, but no criminal charges have been filed against Harris so far.
Still, John said he felt compelled to embark on an intimate relationship with his coach and mentor. After all, Harris was an authority figure, he said.
John said Harris recruited him for the high school water polo team when he was just an eighth grader. He later became captain of the team in 10th grade.
“If you were a captain, you pretty much were on the phone with him all the time, for hours a day,” John recalled.
The phone calls revolved around sex and not sports, according to John. They even included detailed instructions on touching oneself.
“There would even be sort of assignments that he would give me,” John said.
Harris allegedly told them, “‘This is part of being a captain. This is part of your duty of being on the team and being in a leadership position,’” John said. “He made that very clear.”
John said Harris ultimately wanted physical contact, which he rebuffed. He said his abuse mainly took place through lengthy, sexually explicit phone conversations with his coach.
Today, John is still recovering from the years of abuse through therapy.
He said learning about similar stories on social media finally propelled him and the other victims to come forward.
“I want him to be remembered as someone who serially abused children for a very long time and kind of got away with it,” John said.
“There are other plaintiffs, of course, who had actual sexual contact with George Harris,” Rizkalla, the victims’ lawyer, notes.
KTLA reached out to the school district for a statement but was told they do not comment on pending litigation. They maintain that student safety is their top priority.
KTLA also reached out to Harris on Saturday night, but has not yet heard back.