A former Punahou School assistant girls’ basketball coach accused by three women of sexual assault went on to coach and teach at other Hawaii schools until 2018, even though Punahou allegedly knew about his behavior as early as 2003.
One of the women, a minor at the time, filed a restraining order against Dwayne Yuen in 2006.
But the allegations didn’t stop him from getting jobs at Moanalua High, Kamehameha Schools and Momilani Elementary school. Civil Beat research shows that he taught second grade and coached basketball at Momilani, and coached at Moanalua and Kamehameha.
The women say in their lawsuits that they reported him to Punahou School when they were in their teens, but the school did nothing to protect them. By law, educators and school employees are required to report suspected cases of abuse to the police or state Child Welfare Services. Failure to report is a petty misdemeanor.
“Adults who were in positions to make decisions to protect children failed in their duty to do so and they let this predator be around children,” said Crystal Glendon, an attorney representing Shawna-Lei Kuehu, a local basketball standout who accuses Yuen of grooming her for sex starting in 2004 when she was a freshman in high school.
Robert Gelber, a Punahou spokesperson, did not return calls for comment. School President Michael Latham said in an April 20 letter to the community that every employee is considered a mandatory reporter and receives sexual misconduct training.
“We are heartbroken by these accounts, and our hearts go out to the survivors,” he also said in the letter.
Yuen could not be reached for comment by phone or email.
The Hawaii Department of Education, which oversees public schools Momilani and Moanalua, said it screens every employee through federal and state criminal background checks. Kamehameha Schools said it was not aware of the allegations against Yuen when it hired him and did not provide further comment.
State administrative rules say that the education department may refuse to employ people with a history of sex offenses evidenced not only by criminal conviction, but also “other information or evidence, which reflect upon the character and fitness of the person which indicates that the person poses a risk to children.”
DOE spokesman Derek Inoshita said Yuen resigned in February 2018 after the state opened an investigation into the allegations against him. But because he resigned, the state never made a report about the investigation in his personnel file.
It’s unclear if Punahou School ever disclosed the allegations against Yuen to the education department or Kamehameha Schools prior to 2018 or if those schools reached out to Punahou prior to bringing Yuen on board as a teacher or coach.
The attorneys for Kuehu, the basketball star who is suing Yuen, say Punahou granted him unrestricted access to the campus even after he left as assistant coach, allowing him to prey on female athletes.
“If you were a parent, do you expect that the institution you send your kid to school will be a safe institution? Where the school controls who comes on campus and for what purpose?” asked Kelli Ponce, another attorney representing Kuehu.
The easy access was made possible by the social network of the coaches, the attorneys said. In another suit against Yuen, attorneys say Mike Taylor, head coach of the Punahou girls’ basketball team, helped Yuen get a coaching gig with the Hawaii Storm Basketball Club.
His social connections appear to have helped Yuen become an assistant coach at Moanalua High and Kamehameha schools.
Yuen, a Punahou graduate, was an assistant coach for Greg Tacon at Moanalua High School at least for one season in 2012, Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament records show. Tacon had been head coach at Punahou for six seasons, overlapping with Yuen’s time there.
Then Yuen went on to assist Tacon again at Kamehameha in 2013 when Tacon was hired to coach the boys’ varsity basketball team. Pictures from that time show Tacon, Yuen and other staff in coaching uniforms posing with the team.
Yuen’s full career of teaching and coaching despite the accusations in the early 2000s shows that “there are some profound gaps in the law that need to be addressed,” Ponce, Kuehu’s attorney, said.
“Shawna has had to live with this as a secret as a part of her life that she was ashamed of and tried to manage day to day, impacted the way she felt about herself,” she said of her client. “It changed that part of her that was a loving child and turned her into somebody who was guarded, scared and resentful.”
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