A judge ruled Wednesday that two women who say their former English teacher at a Hancock Park all-girls school sexually abused them can proceed to trial with the part of their lawsuit against another Southland school where the educator previously worked and obtained a positive recommendation from the administration despite having an allegedly questionable record there.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Linfield rejected arguments by attorney Patricia Glaser, representing Viewpoint School in Calabasas, that the plaintiffs’ claims were filed too late.
“Respectfully, you honor just has it wrong,” said Glaser. “This isn’t one of those close calls in my judgment.”
Glaser said she will seek appellate review of the ruling. Linfield said he had no objections.
“I take no umbrage at all,” Linfield said.
One plaintiff, 32-year-old former Marlborough School student Chelsea Burkett, previously settled the part of her case against that school. She alleged Marlborough’s administration knew of past allegations of sexual misconduct by teacher Joseph Thomas Koetters, but failed to investigate them.
Burkett’s case is consolidated with that filed by another woman who also alleges Koetters sexually abused her when she was 16 years old, during the 2003-04 school year at Marlborough. That plaintiff continues to be referred to as Jane Doe in her court papers. Her allegations against both schools are still ongoing and Linfield has yet to rule on Marlborough’s motion do dismiss her allegations.
In the part of their case against Viewpoint School, Burkett and Jane Doe allege that Koetters “sexually groomed” a female student at Viewpoint, where he worked prior to Marlborough.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers say in court papers that they learned during the pretrial exchange of information between the parties on the Burkett- Marlborough allegations that the administration at Viewpoint fired Joseph Koetters for inappropriate conduct with students at that private co-educational campus, but still gave him a “glowing recommendation” before he was hired at Marlborough.
Koetters was dubbed “creepy Koetters” because of his alleged inappropriate behavior with girls at Viewpoint, according to Burkett’s court papers.
“It’s called passing the trash,” plaintiffs’ attorney David Ring told Linfield. “They (Viewpoint) gave him a fake verbal recommendation to get him to another school.”
In their court papers, Viewpoint School attorneys say the administration was only aware of two incidents involving Koetters, one in which he allegedly put a hand on a female student’s shoulders and another in which he was accused of tripping a male pupil while they were running together.
In a “Nightline” interview that aired April 11, Burkett went public with her name and discussed being the victim of childhood sexual abuse.
Now in her 30s, she alleged in her lawsuit that Koetters had a relationship with her at Marlborough School from 2000-02, beginning when she was 16 years old. Burkett said Koetters impregnated her in 2002 and that she later had a miscarriage.
She alleged 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.
Koetters, now 50, was arrested in February 2015. The Santa Monica resident was sentenced to a year in county jail in October 2015 for engaging in sex acts with both women.
Koetters was charged with 14 sex abuse counts and had faced up to 11 years behind bars, but in a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to four counts. As part of his sentence, Koetters was required to register as a sex offender and complete at least one year of sex offender therapy and he was placed on five years of probation, during which he is barred from teaching or being with any female minor under the age of 18, except his daughter.
–City News Service