By: Bridie Beamish
TW: Sexual Assault
In a settlement, the Los Gatos Union School District (LGUSD) agreed to pay two former Blossom Hill Elementary students 5.1 million dollars. Two former students, John Doe and John Doe two, filed a lawsuit, claiming that former teacher Joseph Brian Houg sexually assaulted and harassed them in 2020 and from 2008 to 2009, respectively. John Doe will receive 900,000 dollars, and John Doe two will receive 4.2 million dollars.
The lawsuit claimed that Blossom Hill Elementary was aware of Houg’s predatory and abusive actions and failed to act to protect its students. The filing also cites at least 11 reports over almost 20 years of Houg’s misconduct. Additionally, the lawsuit states that John Doe two was so traumatized and ashamed from the events that he attempted to genitally mutilate himself using a cup of scalding water.
According to separate reports KQED obtained, Blossom Hill Principal Lisa Reynolds received at least four reports between 2009 and 2014 from parents describing Houg’s inappropriate behavior, two of which were concerns about him inappropriately touching two boys and another of him bullying a separate student. Though the school instructed Houg to refrain from physical contact with students at all times, he received no evident discipline.
In a public records request, KQED also acquired an email to Reynolds from parents in 2013 that claimed Houg instructed their son and his friend to “come to his classroom during lunch to undress down to their underwear to try on a ‘costume’ for the play.” There is no record of Reynold’s response or whether the school took action. The school received more reports of Houg inappropriately touching students in 2014.
Jan Blair-Olsen, the parent of a student whom Houg reportedly bullied in 2003, testified in a deposition for the lawsuit and said, “The school district knew this and let him stay there, let him have access to children. They knew it. They knew it. They knew it.”
The lawsuit seeks a mandate requiring the district to instruct teachers on how to notice “red flag predatory behaviors” and impose a reporting requirement if they observe such behavior from a co-worker. Furthermore, the John Does want the judge to require education for all students on what inappropriate behavior from a teacher is. They also want the school to inform kids that a teacher can not watch them change and that there must be at least two adults present during costume assistance.
The district stated, “For the good of our school community, including current and former students and their families, the district believes it was best to settle this matter so we can continue to focus on the education, health, and well-being of all our LGUSD students.” They elaborated, “We hope this settlement agreement will help to bring closure to the families involved.”
(Sources: CBS News, KQED, Los Gatan, Mercury News)