Victim’s parents call for transparency, accountability and policies to keep students safe from sexual predators.
The Los Gatos Union School District and a former fifth grade teacher, Joseph Brian Houg, are being sued by the parents of a 10-year-old child who was sexually abused by Houg.
Due to the boy’s age and the sensitive nature of the allegations, the suit was filed anonymously on behalf of “John Doe.”
Houg is a former Blossom Hill Elementary School teacher who last month pleaded no contest to 10 felony counts of child molestation and three misdemeanor counts of annoying and molesting a child. Those charges stemmed from his crimes against 10 male Blossom Hill elementary students, including John Doe.
In a California criminal proceeding, pleading no contest means the defendant agrees to accept conviction for the crimes.
The suit details specific acts Houg committed against Blossom Hill students, some of whom, like John Doe, participated in school theater productions.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Houg was Blossom Hill’s theater director.
“In January 2020, my client was alone in a dressing room with Houg, who played with his genitals while pretending to tuck in his shirt. The school’s lack of oversight permitted Houg to isolate and abuse my client,” attorney Robert Allard said.
John Doe trusted Houg, the lawsuit says, and was seriously traumatized by the molestation incident.
“Shirt tucking” incidents, bullying and verbal abuse were reported by numerous Houg victims, most of whom were male, except for two girls who were bullied.
It’s believed Houg began teaching at Blossom Hill in fall 1999. The bullying and sexual assaults started a few years later, the lawsuit says.
“A mother of a fifth grader reported Houg’s bullying to the principal during the 2003-2004 school year and she was ignored,” Mr. Allard said. “The mother followed through, reporting Houg to the school superintendent and a school board member but they didn’t discipline or reprimand him – they didn’t even bother documenting her concerns. Houg, meanwhile, was grooming a third grader who was interested in musical theater.”
Grooming is the process pedophiles use to lure their victims into illegal sexual encounters.
To ensure Los Gatos students are protected against pedophiles, the lawsuit demands the district establish policies to ensure transparency and accountability. John Doe’s parents want all complaints, including those involving teacher discipline, to be documented, investigated and properly responded to.
The lawsuit also calls for students and parents to be instructed on how to file complaints and would establish an “open door” policy for times when a child is alone in a room with an educator, except for counseling.
“My client’s parents believe it’s imperative that current and future students be protected,” Mr. Allard said. “Clearly, the school district has a lot of work to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Houg’s crimes became public in spring 2020, when he instructed two 13-year-old theater students to engage in inappropriate conduct during Zoom calls. The boys reported him and Houg was arrested by Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies in September 2020.
He faces up to 35 years in prison when he’s sentenced Nov. 29.