District pays $2.25 million to three girls sexually abused by teacher.
The New Haven Unified School District has agreed to pay $2.25 million to three young girls who were sexually abused by their third-grade teacher, Michael William Howey, when they were eight years old. Two of the girls, who were represented by the San Jose law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, will share equally in the settlement with the third girl, who was represented by another law firm.
The first complaint about Howey’s inappropriate behavior came during the 2002-2003 school year when he was teaching at Cesar Chavez Middle School but school officials ignored it.
“They didn’t believe the girl’s story that Howey kept grabbing her thigh and sexually harassing her, so they didn’t even bother to document her complaint,” attorney Lauren Cerri said. “This led to Howey abusing other young girls – abuse that could have been prevented if the school district had followed California’s mandatory reporting laws in the first place.”
Fast forward to 2010-2012 when Howey was teaching kindergarten at Cabello Elementary School. During this timeframe, Howey digitally penetrated a female student several times in the presence of other students and kissed numerous female students on the lips.
Howey then transferred to Alvarado Elementary School, where employees reported his grooming behaviors to school officials.
“The complaints were not documented anywhere in Howey’s file or shared with other administrators. They were again swept under the rug,” attorney Robert Allard said.
In December 2012, a school monitor told Alvarado Principal Tracey Noriega that she was concerned about Howey giving necklaces only to female students. Noriega rationalized that the necklaces were a student incentive and did nothing.
Reports that Howey was hugging and kissing young female students during recess and during an after-school program were likewise ignored by mandatory reporters.
Howey was arrested by Fremont police on May 1, 2013 after a paraeducator witnessed him hugging and kissing a minor female student in his classroom.
“Both of my clients testified during Howey’s preliminary court hearing that he repeatedly kissed them on the cheek and lips in front of other students,” Mr. Allard said. “Not only that, one of the girls testified that Howey touched her private parts while he held her on his lap. This is truly an extraordinary case – employees of the school district knew for years what was going on and continued to ignore the red flags. They could have stopped Howey in his tracks. Their negligence is mind-boggling.”
“Howey is out of prison and has presumably resumed a ‘normal’ life but our clients – his victims – have not,” Mr. Allard said.
“These are life-long impacts that demonstrate why educators have a legal and moral responsibility to protect students,” Mr. Allard said. “The safety of our children demands that we expose these criminals and the people who enabled them.”
Mr. Allard and Ms. Cerri represent an additional young girl suing the school district as a result of sexual abuse by Howey whose case has not yet settled.
Source: See the San Jose Mercury-News article on this case.