Los Gatos Union School District settles sexual abuse lawsuit brought by two victims of fifth grade teacher

The Los Gatos Union School District has agreed to pay a total of $5.1 million to a teenager and an adult who were sexually abused as children by Blossom Hill Elementary School teacher and youth theater director Joseph Brian Houg.

The sexual abuse lawsuit, CV No. 21CV388845, was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by attorneys for San Jose-based Corsiglia McMahon & Allard.

John Doe, 13, was sexually assaulted in early 2020; he will receive $900,000. John Doe 2, 23, was sexually abused in 2008-2009 and will receive $4.2 million.

“John Doe 2 was so ashamed and disgusted by the abuse that he took a cup of scalding hot water and purposely poured it onto his penis in an attempt to genitally mutilate himself,” the lawsuit says.

“John Doe 2’s abuse was so horrific that he’s still suffering from what happened to him when he was a little boy,” attorney Mark Boskovich said. “He can use this settlement to get the help he needs since he continues to suffer from anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.”

Houg was sentenced in November 2021 to 35 years in prison for molesting ten former Blossom Hill students, including Doe 2. In Doe 2’s case, Houg was convicted of three felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child by force, duress, menace or fear.

Parents also accused Houg of verbally abusing students.

“The school district failed to discipline Houg or supervise him more closely after multiple verbal abuse and sexual harassment complaints and this settlement acknowledges that fact,” Boskovich said. “We uncovered evidence of at least eleven complaints that were brought to the school’s attention between 2001 and 2020. This was unprecedented. The school administrators involved in these complaints failed to protect these kids. Had the District documented and investigated the early complaints and properly supervised Houg, many kids would have been spared.”

The cost of not following the law is steep: the Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District recently agreed to pay $3.485 million to a former Los Gatos student who was sexually abused by her track coach; a jury ordered San Jose’s Union School District to pay two abused female students $102.5 million, with the district settling another sexual abuse case involving five men now in their fifties for $7.5 million; and the Tamalpais Union High School District in Marin County paid $10 million to a male student who was abused by his tennis coach.

“One of the reasons there are so many cases involving schools is because pedophiles go where the kids are,” Boskovich said. “It’s imperative schools understand they can’t protect teachers who are hurting kids. My colleagues and I are determined to end this cycle of placing the image and reputation of the school over the safety of children.”

Boskovich is also calling on the school district to “look at the administrators who failed to take action against Houg and make sure they are held accountable for their actions.”

The other plaintiff in the Houg case, John Doe, was abused in January 2020 when he was 10 years old during a dress rehearsal for a school play production.

Houg’s downfall came during the pandemic when he asked two 13-year-old boys to engage in inappropriate conduct during separate videoconferences.

The boys reported Houg and he was arrested in September 2020 by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies; he was suspended without pay by the school district shortly thereafter.

Reminder: AB 218 amended California’s statute of limitations to allow older sexual abuse cases like this one to be filed. The deadline ends on Dec. 31, 2022.