A judge ruled Thursday that a young woman who alleges a former English teacher at a Hancock Park all-girls school sexually abused and impregnated her when she was a student can file an amended complaint in which she identifies herself by her true name rather than as Jane Doe.
The plaintiff, 32-year-old Chelsea Burkett, previously came forward during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline” in April. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Linfield granted the request for Burkett to amend her complaint, receiving no opposition from the defense.
“Throughout the course of this litigation, plaintiff became actively involved in various causes that are aimed at preventing childhood sexual abuse and supporting victims,” according to Burkett’s court papers. “Throughout this active involvement, plaintiff eventually reached a point where she no longer wanted to stay silent about her identity — she no longer wanted to be Jane Doe. Plaintiff was ready to publicly come forward and tell her story.”
In the “Nightline” interview aired April 11, Burkett discussed being the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the teacher, Joseph Koetters, while attending Marlborough School, her court papers stated.
Now in her 30s, Burkett alleges in her lawsuit that Koetters had a relationship with her at Marlborough School from 2000-02 beginning when she was 16 years old.
She alleges that she did not realize Koetters caused her psychological harm until 2014, when she read an online essay written by another female who claimed she also was sexually harassed by the teacher.
The lawsuit, filed in April 2015, alleges school officials knew of past allegations of sexual misconduct by Koetters, but failed to investigate them.
Koetters was arrested in February 2015. The 49-year-old Santa Monica resident was sentenced to a year in county jail in October 2015 on charges that he engaged in sex acts with two 16-year-old girls more than a decade ago, including the plaintiff.
The plaintiff says Koetters impregnated her in 2002 and that she later had a miscarriage.
The plaintiff’s case is consolidated with that filed by another young woman who also alleges Koetters sexually abused her when she was 16 years old during the 2003-04 school year. That plaintiff will continue to be referred to as Jane Doe in her court papers.
In a related matter, the attorneys for both plaintiffs filed a motion asking the judge to order Barbara Wagner, Marlborough’s head of school from 1990-2015, to answer additional deposition questions.
Marlborough formed a special committee to investigate the Koetters matter and the committee’s findings pointed much of the blame at Wagner for failing to fully probe sexual harassment complaints, including those made by two girls other than the plaintiffs in 2005 and 2012, the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ court papers state.
When she was deposed in April, Wagner — abiding by the advice of her lawyer — declined to answer the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ questions about any complaints involving Koetters that took place after 2005, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ court papers.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled June 21.
–City News Service
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: