10th former Colton High player alleges sexual assault by ex-coach’s daughter – San Bernardino Sun


Near the end of the 2000 football season, a Colton High School freshman team coach approached one of the varsity’s standout players in the school’s football facility.

“Is it true?” the coach asked, according to the player.

“What?” the player responded.

“Is it true you’re doing Coach’s daughter?” the coach answered, using a slang term for sexual intercourse, the player said.

“Yep,” the player said.

“And he was like ‘Damn!’ and walked away laughing,” the player recalled.

The coach the assistant was referring to was Colton varsity head coach Harold Strauss, then in his first season of a career that would make him a revered figure in the community as the architect of what has been described as Colton’s pipeline to the National Football League.

His daughter is Tiffany Gordon, then Colton’s athletic trainer and currently the athletic director at Grand Terrace High School in the Colton Joint Unified School District.

The player is the first known alleged victim who Gordon sexually assaulted, abused and molested with the knowledge of Harold Strauss and other Yellowjacket coaches between 2000 and 2007, according to court filings obtained by the Southern California News Group.

In a series of interviews with SCNG and in court documents, 10 former Colton players allege that Gordon had sexual intercourse with and performed oral sex on players who were between the ages of 14 and 17 in the school’s locker room, training room, bathrooms, weight room and football trailer as well as at her parents’ house during weekly meetings between the coaches and top players. One player alleged in an interview and the lawsuit that Gordon had sex with him at least 50 times during his senior year at Colton High, when he was 17.

In a lawsuit filed against Gordon and the CJUSD in San Bernardino Superior Court on Friday and in an interview with SCNG, the former player, identified as John Doe 7079 in court filings, said he was sexually assaulted shortly after Strauss and Gordon arrived on the Colton campus prior to the 2000 season. This began a three-month period in which Gordon continued to sexually assault the player, then 17, at “Captains’ Dinners” for team leaders at Harold Strauss’ home, on a football-related trip and in Gordon’s car while it was parked on the Colton campus and other sites around Colton and Grand Terrace.

“What happened at Colton is simply inexcusable,” said Jemma E. Dunn, an attorney for the former players. “The sheer number of people who have come forward about Tiffany Gordon’s rampant sexual misconduct demonstrates a systemic issue within the football program and at the District.”

In an interview this week, John Doe 7079 was asked if he struggled coming forward.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t want to do this. I feel like I’m the beginning. And the timeline of what I’ve seen of what happened is horrifying and disgusting and it started with me. And I’m a little afraid of, I think people are going to know exactly who this is, but I live far away from there but I feel like it needs to be said. This happened the moment she stepped on campus and was only allowed to keep going and building and get worse and then was promoted and who knows? And kind of horrifying there’s probably more. Like we don’t know.”

He said he has never discussed Gordon’s alleged abuse with his family – “My parents to this day still don’t know or won’t talk about it” – but said he is coming forward in part to try to change a pervasive attitude in sports culture where sexual relations between older female coaches, trainers or teacher and younger male players and students are often not seen as sexual abuse but a rite of passage or source of pride for the boys. As a result, the survivors are frequently viewed as heroes instead of victims.

“These football programs need to see that these gender roles don’t matter anymore,” John Doe 7079 said. “I’m just ready to be a part of that, a change.

“This makes me so anxious just talking about this right now.”

Gordon is currently on a leave of absence, a school official said. The CJUSD declined to say when Gordon was placed on leave or whether she is being paid while on leave.

Gordon has not responded to multiple requests for comment. Her attorney also did not respond to a request for comment. Gordon has been interviewed by the Colton Police Department, according to Paul Wallin, Gordon’s criminal defense attorney, and previously confirmed to SCNG.

The CJUSD has hired a Sacramento law firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Gordon. It is the same law firm Mater Dei hired last year to investigate allegations of bullying and other misconduct within the school’s football and athletic programs.

“From the moment the District was presented with the allegations, we immediately took decisive action by placing the party in question on administrative leave, as well as contacting the Colton Police Department,” the CJUSD said in a statement to SCNG. “The District has made itself, and will continue to make itself, completely available to the Colton Police Department. The District is committed to ensuring that law enforcement has access to all of the facts and information for their investigation.

“Although the current administrative team members were not in leadership roles with the District 20 years ago, the district leadership team is extremely concerned about the allegations being made. Our commitment is always to the safety and well-being of our students, families and staff, and we will work with local law enforcement to protect our community and lend our support to any victims in this case.”

Harold Strauss died in December 2019 at the age of 60.

SCNG does not name the survivors of sexual abuse.

Harold Strauss was hired at Colton in the spring of 2000 after spending two seasons coaching in Colton, Oregon. Strauss was already well known in the Inland Empire, having coached Bloomington Christian to six CIF title games, winning twice.

In his return to Southern California, Colton gained a national reputation for sending Yellowjacket players to Power 5 college programs and the NFL. Six players from Colton, a school with less than 2,000 students, were on NFL rosters during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. A year later, 10 former Colton players were invited to NFL training camps. Colton’s 2005 roster included six future NFL players.

John Doe 7079 remembers Harold Strauss and Tiffany visiting the Colton campus in April 2000. She was also at his side when the Yellowjackets opened practice the following August.

“As the daughter of Colton High School’s highly influential and prominent Head Coach and Athletic Director, Harold Strauss, Gordon used her authority and role as the team’s trainer to gain access to Plaintiff and numerous other student-athletes,” attorneys for John Doe 7079 write in the most recent court filing. “She took advantage of her position of influence, authority, and power – given to her by CJUSD – to develop the players’ trust and then to sexually assault, harass, and molest them.

“Knowledge of Gordon’s misconduct with minors spread throughout the football team, the players’ parents, and the team’s staff. Despite rampant rumors surrounding Gordon’s misconduct, CJUSD knowingly, intentionally, willfully, deliberately, negligently, and/or recklessly allowed Gordon to continue working at the school when she abused Colton High School’s varsity football players. In doing so, Defendants fostered a pervasive and hostile environment that utterly disregarded the rights and safety of minor athletes who were entrusted to CJUSD. As a result of CJUSD’s failure to even do the bare minimum – report and investigate instances of sexual misconduct with minors – Plaintiff and numerous other student-athletes suffered humiliation, shame, guilt, and embarrassment as a result of the system of abuse.

“Despite the extensive and pervasive abuse of these minor students by Gordon, CJUSD not only continued to employ Gordon, but even promoted her to Athletic Director at Grand Terrace High School – another high school within its district. Thus, rather than report or investigate the rampant sexual abuse of minors by Gordon, CJUSD chose to reward it. In doing so, CJUSD thereby emboldened her authority, ratified her conduct, and allowed her to gain further access to other minors, solely for the satisfaction of Gordon’s own prurient sexual desires.”

John Doe 7079 said Gordon performed oral sex on him in her car early in the 2000 season. He said he was a virgin when Gordon had sexual intercourse with him at Harold Strauss’ home after the coach and his family hosted a “Captain’s Dinner.” Other former Colton players have also alleged that Gordon had sex with them during or after “Captain’s Dinners” at the Strauss home.

Gordon began having sex with John Doe 7079 on a regular basis, the former player said, on Colton High School grounds. He recalled sneaking out of his family home at night to meet Gordon and have sex with her in nearby cul de sacs and “a construction site building future sub-prime housing crash houses in Grand Terrace.”

They also continued to have sex at the Strauss home.

“One moment that really stands out is I was leaving their house,” John Doe 7079 said, “Tiffany was taking me home at like 1 in the morning, 2 in the morning, Coach Strauss, I encountered him at the bottom of the stairs going to the front door and it was very obvious, it was 2 in the morning or such and he said ‘Hey, (players name), I’ll see you in the morning’ or something to that effect or ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’ And at that moment I was like ‘OK, the jig is up.’ Like you do know about this and no, nothing really came of it.”

He was asked if Strauss ever said anything to him about the encounter after that night or took any action?

“No,” the former player said. “Nobody did.”

Another former Colton player alleged in an interview and a lawsuit filed earlier this year that Gordon was performing oral sex on him in the locker room with the lights off on Halloween 2007 when Strauss entered the room.

“When Coach Strauss made his way through the locker room, he confronted the two and asked why the lights were off,” the suit said. “Gordon made excuses, claiming they were just cleaning up and leaving.”

John Doe 7079 said he told Gordon he wouldn’t see her again after the incident with the freshman coach.

“It’s like more of a slap on the back and then, ‘Holy (expletive), man, are you all right? This is horrible and (let’s) figure something out,’” he said recalling the freshman coach’s reaction to his acknowledging Gordon had had sex with him.

“‘All right, we need to be done,” John Doe 7079 recalled thinking. “This is, you could feel people knew. People in the program knew and the shame kind of builds, right? And it feels like this could filter into my friends who aren’t on the football team or teachers. The shame builds, right? It builds and builds and builds and I’m pretty good at burying stuff. So yep, we’re done here.

“I wanted to be a high school student and I was kind of living a double life there and having this sexual relationship with this person within the confines of this football program and trying to have friends that were my age. Even a relationship with another person. So the shame and the kind of embarrassment and all that stuff was building as we went along. As football was over, I was like, ‘I have to stop this.’ I had to get out.

“It was gross, it’s not normal and not OK.”

He told Gordon it was over on the day Yellowjacket players cleaned out their football lockers.

“Leave me alone,” he recalled telling Gordon. “It was a rainy day, one of the few. And that was it.”

He soon felt estranged from Strauss and the football program. He thought he was good enough to play college football, but after the break with Gordon, no one at Colton showed any interest in helping him contact college recruiters. He lost interest in school.

“Felt like it was pretty widespread, that everybody knew and that caused me to have no contact with the football program,” John Doe 7079 said, referring to awareness at the school about Gordon having sex with him. “Coach Strauss, there was no communication, my football life and whatever college prospects and any powerhouse football things that followed, I definitely wasn’t a part of. I was kind of done at that point.

“To be quite honest with you, they had portrayed themselves as this Christian family and stuff like that and it all just felt like bull (expletive),” he continued, referring to the Strauss family. “You know it’s wrong. You’re a kid, it did come up when we were kids, but I didn’t want it to be known and I wasn’t super interested in school, ACT, SAT. I wanted to get away. I wanted to grow up and go away and that’s what I did. School stopped being school. It was like I’m somehow an adult now because I was with an adult and acting like an adult, or I think I am and now they don’t like me and I’m not supposed to be around. It changed for sure.”

He worked for a while after high school before joining a friend at a community college in the midwest and then graduating from a four-year college in the region.

Today, he is a teacher and coach in the Midwest.

“Now I’m an actual teacher and in charge of young people and it’s even more kind of sickening, what happened and thinking about what happened after me and finding out what has happened since me,” he said. “I coach. I’m in charge of young people and families trust me and the people that are around me as teachers to take care of them. Sometimes I can’t believe like it happened. I can’t believe that it went on and it kept going and it’s a part of my story and it’s really unfortunate.”

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