Beechwood grad testifies before Kentucky legislators on teacher sexual misconduct bill
Kotomi Yokokura says she didn’t know what she experienced was wrong until she started talking about it with friends.
FORT MITCHELL, Ky. (WXIX) - A bill making its way through the Kentucky General Assembly would ban nondisclosure agreements about teacher misconduct, including sexual misconduct, and would require teachers to disclose past investigations.
It’s a bill that has the backing of a Northern Kentucky woman who says she’s working to help protect students from the trauma she says she endured at the hands of one of her high school teachers.
“Even though people may not believe survivors, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” said Kotomi Yokokura, a former student at Beechwood High School.
Yokokura says she was the target of grooming and sexual abuse at the school, where one of her teachers allegedly communicated to her through a private chat group on a school communication platform called Remind.
“It eventually evolved into one-on-one chats, bringing students in or bringing me into his office behind, like, the closed doors of his office, where he’d ask you details of your personal life, your dating life, things to get closer to you,” Yokokura said.
Yokokura says the teacher’s advances escalated when he began tutoring her. She says that’s when he inappropriately touched her.
“I went to his apartment parking lot to have tutoring, and that’s when the more sexual things happened,” she said. “I thought it was just kind of the high-school experience... My parents are kind of like... I’m a first-generation American, so they didn’t really know what was happening either. So, I think all of that just made the perfect storm for what happened,” she said.
It wasn’t until Yokokura started attending college that she says she realized during conversations with friends the magnitude of the teacher’s alleged inappropriate behavior.
“I was like, ‘Did your teacher not do that?’ And they’re like, ‘No,’” Yokokura recalled. “And then we got to physical touch, and they’re like, ‘That’s a hard line at my school.’ And that’s when everything started to come together.”
The teacher resigned and was investigated by Kentucky State Police but has not been charged.
Yokokura says her trauma has resulted in lasting psychological damage.
“I think anything we can do to ensure students aren’t afraid to come to school or aren’t afraid of the system would be great,” she said.
House Bill 288 would require teachers accused of sexual misconduct in schools to disclose more information when applying for jobs in other schools. It unanimously passed the Kentucky House of Representatives.
It would also require school district employees to undergo training every five years related to appropriate relationships and communication with students.
Yokokura shared her story before the Kentucky House Education Committee speaking in favor of HB 288.
“I was terrified to speak in front of legislators,” she said. “But I knew it was something that I had to do because I’m not the only story. And thankfully, I’m in a place where I have the support system and feel safe enough to talk about it, and I think that it’s something that I need to do, because other people might not have that ability... and silence is what allows things like this to continue to happen.”
HB 288 now heads to the Kentucky Senate.
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