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Basketball standout Shawna-Lei Kuehu sues former coach, Punahou School over alleged sexual abuse

  • STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
                                Shawna-Lei Kuehu was named All-State player of the year three times while at Punahou.

    STAR-BULLETIN / 2005

    Shawna-Lei Kuehu was named All-State player of the year three times while at Punahou.

Shawna-Lei Kuehu, a basketball champion at Punahou School who went on to star in college, sued her former Punahou coach Dwayne Yuen and the school Friday, alleging that he sexually assaulted and abused her.

The 2008 Punahou graduate is one of a string of women who played basketball as teens at the school who have come forward in court this week accusing Yuen of sexual abuse and the school of doing nothing to prevent it.

“Over the course of years, Dwayne Yuen used Punahou School, and specifically the girls’ basketball program, as his hunting ground to lure and assault female students,” the suit filed in Circuit Court alleges. Yuen was an assistant girls basketball coach in his 30s at the time.

On Wednesday, mixed martial arts champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, her sister Mahina Macfarlane Souza and a 2007 Punahou graduate identified only as “Jane Doe,” also filed suit in Circuit Court against the school and Yuen alleging sexual abuse, assault and battery and gross negligence, among other charges. Souza graduated from Punahou in 2006 and her sister in 2009.

That suit was handled by the Law Offices of Vladimir P. Devens, which went on to file another complaint in court Friday, representing a 2006 Punahou graduate who alleges a similar pattern of abuse and chose to remain anonymous. That plaintiff said she reported Yuen to the school in 2004 to no avail.

Kuehu’s lawsuit describes Yuen as a pedophile who preyed on her when she was “a young and vulnerable child.”

The complaint says the assaults took place during her freshman and sophomore year. They ended only when Kuehu’s mother secured a temporary restraining order against Yuen, not because Punahou did anything to stop it, the suit alleges.

Kuehu is represented by attorneys Crystal K. Glendon and Kelli K. Lee Ponce.

Asked for comment on Kuehu’s lawsuit, Punahou School issued the following statement via email:

“Punahou stands with survivors of sexual abuse everywhere, and we have established a path for any survivor in our Punahou family to come forward and be supported with compassion and respect,” it said.

“Providing for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of each student is Punahou’s highest priority. Since 2018, after retaining a nationally recognized expert in school safety, we instituted safety measures that include a rapid response team to handle any reports of abuse, a 24/7 hotline for abuse reporting, expanded sexual misconduct training and a student safety and security committee. We continue to dedicate ourselves to building the strongest culture of safety possible.”

The lawsuit describes a different attitude at the school when the girls were attending.

As a minor, “plaintiff lacked the ability to consent to Dwayne Yuen’s unceasing sexual advances and eventually, his sexual assault and abuse of her,” the suit said.

“As an adult 17 years her senior, Dwayne Yuen used his power, control, and influence over the Plaintiff to make her feel she had no choice but to succumb to his sexual advances if she wanted to keep her position on the girls’ basketball team and keep the athletic scholarship that paid for her yearly tuition at Punahou School.”

Yuen did not immediately respond to a message left on his phone seeking comment.

Kuehu led her high school team to three state championship titles and went on to star at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Now a basketball coach at Kealakehe High School, Kuehu said she has suffered anger, depression, psychological stress and turmoil as a result of the assaults.

Her suit alleges sexual abuse, assault and battery, gross negligence, infliction of emotional distress and failure to protect, among other charges. It seeks damages, including punitive damages, and a jury trial.

The suit filed by the Macfarlane sisters and Jane Doe on Wednesday says Yuen went after the girls one after another, singling them out for special attention and then turning sexually abusive. The sisters said they reported the abuse to Punahou administrators in 2005 and asked for help and protection but nothing was done, according to the suit.

Yuen then went after “Jane Doe,” starting when she was 15, and ultimately raped her, according to that suit. When she tried to avoid him, he bombarded her with menacing sexual extortion messages, sometimes hundreds in the space of an hour, laced with profanity and threats of violence. Jane Doe’s mother reported the abuse to Punahou’s athletic director, according to the suit. Ultimately, on June 26, 2006, she sought a temporary restraining order and the court ordered Yuen to stay away from her daughter for three years.

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Star-Advertiser staff writer Dave Reardon contributed to this report.

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