Former California high school water polo players allege sexual abuse by ex-coach

Three former boys team players file a lawsuit claiming Harris groomed, harassed and molested them between 2002-10

Former El Segundo High School water polo coach and teacher George Harris Jr. sexually harassed and molested minor-aged male high school players between 2002 and 2010, according to a lawsuit filed by three former El Segundo players.

According to the lawsuit filed against Harris and the El Segundo Unified School District in Los Angeles Superior Court, Harris routinely sexually harassed players at practices and at school, as well as in late-night phone calls in which he encouraged them to masturbate, pressured them to share details about their sexual relationships with their girlfriends, and provided them with alcohol, marijuana, and pornography in an attempt to induce them to have sex with him.

In the lawsuit, a former player who attended El Segundo High from 2005 to 2009 claims that a parent of another student complained to the school’s principal about Harris’ continued sexual harassment and grooming, but that the school district did nothing “to monitor, supervise, or otherwise investigate Harris and prevent the kind of harassment and abuse (the player) was subjected to as a result of his being under the control of” Harris.

According to the lawsuit, Harris “abused his position of trust and authority to sexually harass and abuse his students, including (the three players)….”by engaging in acts such as, but not limited to, inquiring about his students’ teenage romances and sexual activities, including whether they were still virgins; suggesting his students engage in specific sexual games and activities with their girlfriends; making explicit requests for sexual activities from his students; carrying on lengthy phone conversations to groom his students for future sexual abuse; serving alcohol and marijuana to his students at his private residence

Harris unexpectedly retired just before the start of the 2009-2010 school year. Harris and the school cited health concerns as the reason for his departure at the time.

“Due to whatever the condition is, he has opted to take the semester off,” El Segundo athletic director Steve Shevlin said at the time. “The good news is that George is back home and resting, which is a good sign that he’s on the mend.”

Harris did not respond to an interview request.

In response to the lawsuit, El Segundo Unified School District Superintendent Melissa Moore issued a statement.

“The pending lawsuit is known to the El Segundo Unified School District.” The district takes all allegations of misconduct very seriously; however, because this is an ongoing legal matter, we cannot comment on the specifics of the lawsuit or the associated allegations. El Segundo Unified School District promotes a culture of health, safety, and well-being for all students and staff. Our top priority is to create a safe and respectful environment. We appreciate your patience during this difficult time.”

Harris, an El Segundo Unified School District employee for 23 years, joined the El Segundo High water polo coaching staff in 1991. He took over as head coach in 1997 and guided El Segundo to the playoffs in 10 of his 11 seasons, including three trips to the CIF finals.

Harris was also the USC football press box announcer for over 20 years.

In the lawsuit, a former player who attended El Segundo between 2002 and 2006 claims that Harris invited him to his private residence on or around New Year’s Eve and served him Old Crow whiskey, which he poured into a Gatorade bottle so the underage boy could carry it in public.

According to the lawsuit, Harris propositioned the player after giving the student a gift and continuing to provide him with alcohol. According to the filing, the student, feeling “trapped,” eventually agreed to manually stimulate Harris’ genitals with a sex toy.

The suit claims that all three players were subjected to lengthy late-night phone calls during which Harris inquired about their sexual relationships with girls and encouraged them to masturbate, even suggesting various techniques.

The suit also claims that El Segundo water polo players were required to notify Harris of their virginity loss.

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