After switching his plea from not guilty, former Bonita Vista High School Club Blue Director Jason Mangan was sentenced to 365 days in jail and three years probation after pleading guilty to two felony counts of sexual acts with a former band student. Mangan surrendered on March 9, at the South County Superior Court of San Diego, and after his release from county jail, he will register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
“I believe the judge took everything into account. He listened to the victim and took into account what this has done to him. He has listened to Mr. Mangan, his supporters and basically everything he’s done over the course of his career, the kind of person he is, or seems to be. [The judge] made the decision that [Mangan] would be successful on probation and that he doesn’t need to go to prison for punishment,” Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Matzger said.
On behalf of the People, Matzger advocated for the maximum sentence allowed under the plea agreement—three years and eight months in prison. Mangan’s attorney Samantha Greene pushed for the minimum of three years probation. Superior Court Judge Francis Devaney addressed the meeting that took place November of 2010 between the victim’s parents and BVH to address excessive inappropriate phone contact between the student and teacher. This resulted in a signed memorandum of understanding which limited contact between Mangan and John Doe outside of band matters. The relationship continued for several years after John Doe graduated, according to Matzger. He reported the crime early August of 2016, when he was 22.
Clinical and forensic psychologist Bruce Yanofsky, Ph.D, was asked to explain the nature of inappropriate student-teacher relationships, how they may arise and why they might not end immediately. Yanofsky has 27 years of postdoctoral experience and has focused on forensic psychology for the past 15 years. Most notably, his work consists of performing evaluations on sex offenders for the State of California Sex Offender Commitment Program and defense attorneys.
“School is a very clear institution in our society. In school, there are very clear roles. The role of a teacher is pretty clearly defined. Students, it’s equally defined. You go to school to learn and the relationship between the teacher, who is always an adult, is clearly defined by the roles,” Yanofsky said. “What happens is that for different reasons, and in different stages of schooling, those boundaries start to get lost. There starts to be an emotional or physical connection that shouldn’t be a part of the interaction, and it is definitely not defined by their roles. Often times, that turns into affection and that turns into sexual contact”.
The dynamic of school interactions place students in a position of vulnerability and teachers in positions of power if personal relationships develop. Emotional damages, as John Doe’s testimony stated, included “depression, anxiety, self loathing, guilt and shame.” He also testified that he was especially susceptible as, at the time, he was questioning his own sexuality and Mangan was openly gay.
“A child being involved with an adult has physical to emotional to psychological consequences that have to be dealt with by that person for the rest of their life. It changes the way they feel about themselves, their bodies, their sexuality, their relationships, their trust in adults, their trust in others,” Yanofsky said. “If you are involved with a teacher, who is an adult, who is older than you, you will likely be involved in a process that is separating you from your natural path of development.”
According to Yanofsky, minors do not see the “full scope” of the implications while adults, by law, are expected to. Cognitive distortion is a concept commonly used to describe the rational used by both parties to continue an inappropriate relationship.
“Often times you’ll hear the argument that there was some type of emotional connection, that they were both in agreement. However, from the perspective of the law, it’s incumbent upon the adult to know what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not at that point in time,” Yanofsky said.
As a sex offender, Mangan will never work with minors again, which includes teaching. Prior to this charge, Mangan had no criminal record, and was described by his lawyer as an “impeccable citizen” who paid taxes and positively impacted students—as seen through notable support at the courthouse from BVH alumni and parents in navy clothing and yellow “I Stand With Mangan” stickers. “Dozens and dozens” of letters of support were submitted on behalf of Mangan, ultimately influencing the sentence.
Allegations of any degree made at schools are typically brought to the district’s attention immediately, according to Sweetwater Union High School District Director of communications Manuel Rubio. He was not able to answer when the district was first notified of the inappropriate relationship. Mangan had worked within the district for over a decade before the termination of his employment.
“If we get a report from whoever it is, be it a student, a parent, another teacher, an administrator, that there’s something going on, our practice is always to err on the side of caution. That means that we take steps so we can immediately locate that situation and collect the facts,” Rubio said.
When charges were brought up in August, SUHSD launched an internal personnel investigation and cooperated with law enforcement, as protocol would dictate. Despite several recent cases of sex crimes within the district, SUHSD does not have any further changes planned in response to these situations. According to Rubio, this was an “isolated incident.”
“The great majority of our students are minors. We know there is a student teacher relationship. You have a relationship with your teachers, that’s normal. You go to class everyday. You interact with them. As far as personal relationships, that’s something that has to be really carefully watched and guided. If there is an explicit relationship, that’s really unacceptable in any shape or form,” Rubio said.
On the district level, systems are in place to protect students: mandated reporters are legally obligated to express suspicion and concern, teachers and district staff attend trainings on subjects such as sexual harassment, and screenings during the hiring process that alerts of any prior complaints or crimes.
“We continue to be as vigilant as possible and we really need the community’s support. We want folks to say something if they see something or if they hear something. We don’t take any allegations lightly. We don’t dismiss an allegation at any time. If there is a concern, we want it to be brought to the district’s attention. We need to be able to first know that what’s going on to do the right thing,” Rubio said.
The victim’s family filed a civil suit against the SUHSD on six counts of damages December 30, 2016 after Mangan’s change in plea. Rubio stated the district has not responded to the civil case.
The victim’s name was changed to John Doe, as he testified anonymously to protect his privacy in public records.