San Lorenzo Valley High School.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
K-12 Education

SLV school district parting ways with senior administrator Ned Hearn, accused of decades-old sexual abuse

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District is not renewing the employment contract of Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Ned Hearn, an administrator shadowed for years by allegations he sexually abused a high school student in the 1990s at another district. Hearn has consistently denied the allegations.

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District is parting ways with a senior administrator who for years has been dogged by allegations he sexually abused a high school student at another district in the late 1990s — claims that recently resurfaced in a lawsuit.

SLVUSD is not renewing the employment contract of the accused administrator, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Ned Hearn, Superintendent Laurie Bruton announced Thursday following a closed session meeting of the district’s board of trustees. Hearn’s current contract expires June 30, according to Bruton.

Allegations that he sexually abused a high school student decades ago while employed at another school district in Solano County resurfaced in a September lawsuit seeking punitive damages against Hearn and the Solano County district.

After dozens of allegations of misconduct — some directed towards San Lorenzo Valley High School teachers — were made on...

In the lawsuit, plaintiff Melissa Chowning, 40, alleges Hearn sexually abused her when he taught at her high school and coached her swim team in the late 1990s. In court filings, Chowning alleges Hearn abused her on at least 15 occasions from 1997 to 1998, beginning when she was age 16.

Hearn has consistently denied Chowning’s allegations, which first came to light publicly when she stepped forward amid the #MeToo movement late in 2017. He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday, and his attorney previously declined to comment on his behalf on the ongoing litigation.

Hearn is on administrative leave from the district pending the outcome of the ongoing litigation, according to a statement released by Bruton following the board vote Thursday evening. The next hearing in the case is set for June 23, a week before his employment with the district ends. Lookout has reached out to the school district to clarify whether a resolution in the civil litigation could allow him to return before June 30.

Hearn was hired by the district as a part-time teacher at San Lorenzo Valley High in 1999, personnel records show. He advanced to full-time employment by 2001 and worked his way up to assistant principal at the high school in 2016.

In the wake of Chowning’s allegations coming to light, he was transferred out of the high school following a period of paid leave and administrator on special assignment.

He has since been appointed several times at the district office, working his way through positions of secondary dean and curriculum coordinator of secondary education, personnel records show.

In July 2020, Hearn was appointed to one of the district’s most senior administrative positions as assistant superintendent of instructional services — earning a base salary of $148,998.

Dixon police confirmed the department opened a criminal investigation into Chowning’s allegations in 2017, before eventually forwarding the allegation to the Davis Police Department based on the direction of the investigation. Records suggest Hearn lived in Davis in the late 1990s. Davis police recently told Lookout the department could not comment on the status of that investigation.

The vote against renewing his contract was unanimous among the three SLVUSD trustees present. Trustees Gail Levine and Jacqui Rice were absent from the special meeting.

The agenda for the meeting did not disclose Hearn’s employment was under review. But two community members, apparently clued in, addressed the board in advance of the closed session — one speaking for, and one against, Hearn’s continued employment with the district.

“Anybody who knows Ned Hearn knows that he’s one of the most successful — very, very much a contributor to this community through the school district,” said a commenter, identified as Susan.

The second commenter, who identified himself as a parent and educator named Christopher, was submitted in writing.

“How Ned Hearn still has a job absolutely baffles me,” the comment stated. “As an administrator with no tenure, the prudent thing to do would be to not renew his contract for next school year. Just let him go if you don’t have the backbone to outright fire him.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.