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An Orinda High School Track Coach Was Fired Last Fall After Sexual Misconduct Claims, Records Show

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Four different colored books that say "Miramonte High School" on the side are stacked on a green bench seat.
Yearbooks from Miramonte High School sit on a table at the school in Orinda on Dec. 20, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

A track coach at Miramonte High School in Orinda was removed from employment last fall following allegations that he had sexual relationships with multiple former students he had coached, records obtained by KQED show.

Tristan Tool, founder of Orinda Fitness, according to the organization's website, was dismissed from his job with the school district in October, on the same day an alum sent an email to school administrators and the athletic director detailing the allegations. Records show his employment contract with the district was “at will” and that he could be “terminated at any time with or without cause.”

The alum claimed the sexual relationship with Tool began after graduation, just a few months after they had turned 18, and that Tool had groomed them in high school.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), grooming can include manipulative behaviors used to gain access to victims and coerce them to agree to abusive conditions.

“During our relationship, Tristan admitted to having sexual relationships with two other graduates of Miramonte High School that also competed on the Track and Field team, and were directly coached by him,” the alum, whose name is redacted in the records, writes in the Oct. 25 email to school officials. “I believe he is dangerous to the children he is coaching as he has shown a pattern of developing inappropriate relationships with athletes he has coached in the past.”

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The email to the school does not indicate when the alleged sexual relationships with the other former students may have occurred.

Tool did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations.

Acalanes Union High School District Superintendent John Nickerson did not comment on the claims against Tool, but said in an email to KQED, "All disclosable records were released in response to your [California Public Records Act request] regarding Tool. A formal investigation was completed."

Billie-Jo Grant, chief operating officer of McGrath Training Solutions, which provides training to improve safety in schools, said complaints against school employees should be thoroughly investigated.

“Abuse and misconduct is not something that happens all of a sudden,” Grant said. “That power relationship between a teacher and a student doesn't go away the day that they graduate as well as the grooming or bread crumbs that would have been in place prior to that graduation."

Grant said schools can investigate how the relationship developed or occurred to prevent it from happening to other students.

“What was the culture that allowed this to occur, and do we have good policies in place? Have we done proper training for our staff and our students and our administrative team?” Grant said, citing questions schools can ask when similar complaints are made.

The records shared with KQED in response to a public record request with the school district also include an email from another alum, expressing disappointment in the way the school handled "the allegations behind ... Tool's release as head coach."

“There was no effort to contact past athletes, and I therefore heard the news through rumor weeks after it had occurred,” the alum wrote. “It hurts those who have suffered to not have the truth out there. This cannot be swept under the rug.”

This is not the first time the Acalanes Union High School District has had to contend with allegations of misconduct by employees. In December, the school and district were sued by three former students who say the school failed to investigate reports of harassment and assault against an English teacher, Mark Christopher Litton, more than a decade ago.

Litton was sentenced to prison in 2010 after pleading no contest to sexual abuse.

A state law, AB 218, went into effect in 2020 and, among other changes, opened a three-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue school districts or other institutions regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

According to court filings, an attorney for the district has argued that AB 218 violates the state constitution.

The records shared by the school district with KQED also show that an additional alum, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, had complained to the school about Litton’s behavior months before his arrest.

“In particular he would kiss the top of my head, hug me tightly for extended periods of time and he touched my legs,” the former student wrote in a handwritten note dated April 2009. “At the time I was charmed and flattered. It disturbs me a great deal to write this down.”

An image of a handwritten message that begins, "I was a student at Miramonte a few years ago and recently graduated."
A Miramonte High School alum reported inappropriate behavior by English teacher Mark Christopher Litton in April 2009, records obtained by KQED show.

The next hearing related to the civil case is scheduled for April.

“It’s certainly upsetting that the school seems to continue to employ sexual predators,” Jessica Dayton, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the suit, said after reviewing the records.

Dayton added, however, that she was encouraged to see that the school appeared to swiftly address the alum’s complaint against Tool, in contrast to how officials responded to her clients.

“From what I could tell, I was pleased to see [the school] received one complaint and they took swift action,” she said. "That was very heartening to see."

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