Correction: Lawsuit Alleges Marlborough Ignored Teacher’s Former Sexual Abuse
CORRECTION: IN THIS STORY, DUE TO AN EDITING ERROR, WE INDICATED A FORMER STUDENT HAS FILED A CRIMINAL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE FORMER MARLBOROUGH HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER. IN FACT, THE STUDENT FILED A CIVIL LAWSUIT. PROSECUTORS, CAN, HOWEVER, BRING A CRIMINAL SUIT AGAINST THE TEACHER. WE REGRET THE ERROR.
HANCOCK PARK—A former student has filed a civil lawsuit against former Marlborough School teacher, Joseph T. Koetters, and alleges the prestigious all-girls prep school ignored previous allegations of similar abuse before hiring him.
According to documents filed April 8th in Los Angeles Superior Court, the unnamed student, believed to now be in her 30s, claims Koetters initiated a yearlong sexual relationship with her in 2000 when she was 16.
The same former student also contacted the Los Angeles Police Dept., which lead to Koetters’ arrest in February. He was charged with four felony counts of oral copulation and sexual penetration with a foreign object on a victim under the age of 18. Koetters was released on $140,000 bail. At an arraignment Feb. 25th he plead not guilty to all charges.
The lawsuit alleges Marlborough administrators did not investigate previous complaints against Koetters. According to court documents, the lawsuit alleges Koetters, now 48, had a history of predatory behavior dating to 1991 at Pasadena’s Polytechnic School, a Santa Barbara college and at Viewpoint School in Calabasas.
Additionally, the former student alleges that a Marlborough official learned of Koetters’ behavior when checking references to hire him in 1999, but that when questioned Koetters downplayed the reports. Koetters was ultimately hired and remained at Marlborough until June of 2013. Court filings also allege Marlborough administrators failed to alert Polytechnic of complaints against Koetters, which occurred at Marlborough, before he was re-hired there in 2013.
The issue came to light last summer after another former student, Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie, published an essay on the website xoJane describing how Koetters made sexual advances toward her in 2012. Other media outlets picked up the story and reported more allegations against Koetters from other anonymous students.
Last November, after a self-imposed internal investigation, Head of School Barbara Wagner resigned. She will be replaced, July 1st, by Dr. Priscilla G. Sands, who most immediately joins Marlborough from the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, located in Philadelphia, where she has been president since 2011.
Meanwhile, school administration, teachers and students continue to work through the school year, while many have acknowledged the 126-year-old institution has suffered.
“Marlborough’s faculty is intelligent, inspiring and caring,” said Marlborough parent, Marita Geraghty. “I am saddened to see how much pain one troubled teacher can cause, primarily to his victims, but also to the school community as a whole.”
Marlborough officials, citing the criminal investigation and complaints, said they were unable to comment at this time.
A preliminary hearing for Koetters is scheduled May 4th at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.