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Punahou school and former students settle sex abuse lawsuit

Punahou School and former students who filed lawsuits against the school and a former coach alleging sexual assault and abuse jointly announced Wednesday that all the cases have been settled.

The former students, who include three named women who were underage student athletes in the mid-2000s, last year filed lawsuits against Dwayne Yuen, who was then a girls’ basketball coach at Punahou; as well as the school itself, which they alleged did nothing to stop Yuen. The settlement also included two anonymous victims.

The statement from Punahou and the women included an apology from the school.

“Punahou respects the courage of these victims to come forward and hopes that this can begin to provide a path toward healing. The school deeply and profoundly apologizes to these former students for the pain they suffered and welcomes the opportunity to learn from them as it continues its work to ensure the safety of its students,” the statement said.

Shawna-Lei Kuehu, who starred on her basketball teams in high school and college, mixed martial arts champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and her sister Mahina Macfarlane Souza were among the women who accused Yuen of sexual assault, “unwanted sexual advances” and sexual “grooming” while playing on their basketball teams at Punahou.

The Macfarlane sisters’ lawsuit also had alleged that Punahou “did nothing to protect the girls” from Yuen after they reported him to the school and instead “covered up, conspired, and swept the Macfarlane sisters’ report under the rug.”

The joint statement did not disclose the terms of the settlement. Punahou School President Michael Latham did not respond to emailed questions about the settlement, including inquiries of possible payments to the victims or school policy changes that would prevent future sexual abuse and ensure complaints are not ignored by the school.

The joint statement acknowledged that all schools are responsible for their students’ safety.

“The victims and Punahou believe that all schools have a solemn responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of every child including protecting them from sexual abuse,” the statement said. “Together, we dedicate ourselves to creating environments in which all children are safe from sexual predators and empowered to realize their full intellectual, physical and creative potential.”

Attorneys who represented Punahou School and Yuen in the lawsuits did not respond to inquiries for this story. An attorney for Kuehu declined to comment.

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