Santa Ana High School President Mater Dei leaves following an alleged hazing scandal involving the school’s legendary football program.
Father Walter E. Jenkins, who started at Mater Dei in July, resigned from school at the end of the winter break, according to a letter sent on Saturday by Erin Barisano, the superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
Jenkins, a priest, will return to South Bend, Indiana, to “take on a new mission” with his religious order, the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Barisano said.
His departure follows weeks of controversy over Mater Dei, his powerful football program and longtime head coach Bruce Rollinson. A complaint filed in late November by the family of a former football player accused Mater Dei and the Diocese of Orange of trying to cover up a violent altercation in the locker room that left the player with a traumatic brain injury.
Mater Dei tried to cover up the boy’s injuries, which also included a broken nose and slurred speech, by not calling paramedics and contacting his family for 90 minutes, according to the lawsuit. The Orange County Fire Authority did not send an ambulance to the school that day, according to agency records reviewed by The Times.
Rollinson, who has coached the Monarch football team since 1988, told the injured player’s father he “would be a millionaire if he was paid $ 100 every time” he heard of “physical rituals” in the locker room , but later told police he had no knowledge of the game, according to the complaint.
The alleged incident happened in February and Jenkins started as president in July. After the trial was announced, he hired an independent law firm to investigate safety protocols at the school and in the athletic program and said he would make the findings public.
Mater Dei spokeswoman Allison Bergeron said Jenkins had not been fired and that there was “no connection between the dispute and his departure.”
“To make such a connection is deeply unfair to Father Jenkins, who served Mater Dei well during his tenure,” she said.
Jenkins’ departure will not affect the review of security practices at Mater Dei, which is expected to begin this semester, Bergeron said. The law firm Jenkins hired is based in Sacramento, she said, and is discussing the scope of work and other logistics for the review.
Until the hiring of a new president, the school will be headed by the principal and a team of deputy principals, she said.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the school and the diocese are committed to ensuring safety in the school, no matter who sits at that desk,” said Bergeron.