Cambrian Resident

Teachers targeted in sex abuse lawsuits

- By John Woolfolk jwoolfolk@bayareanew­

Five men and three women have filed lawsuits claiming they were sexually abused decades ago by two teachers who worked at public schools in San Jose, Mountain View and Santa Cruz.

One lawsuit brought on behalf of five men ages 37 to 64 alleges they were sexually abused as boys by a man who worked as a teacher at Mountain View Whisman School District and Santa Cruz City Schools. A second lawsuit brought on behalf of three women ages 56 to 58 alleges they were sexually abused as girls by a first-grade teacher at Alum Rock Union School District.

The lawsuits were brought under Assembly Bill 218, which opened a three-year period that ended in December making it easier for adults to file lawsuits over long-ago sexual abuse otherwise barred by the statute of limitation­s.

The law has led to scores of lawsuits against schools and other institutio­ns with youth programs, including the Boy Scouts and Catholic dioceses.

Other school districts already have settled cases brought under the law. Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District in October agreed to pay $3.5 million to a former student abused by her track coach. Beginning in 1999, a student identified as “Jane Doe” said she was abused by Los Gatos High School assistant track coach Chioke Robinson, whom she accused of grooming her to accept his sexual advances when she was a 14-year-old freshman.

Court procedures under the law allowed for an initial judicial review of the claims to determine whether there was sufficient merit for them to proceed, after which the accused may be identified in the complaints filed in court. Judges granted that permission Feb. 2 in the women's case and Jan. 19 in the men's case.

The lawsuit brought by the women now in their 50s was filed Dec. 27 in Santa Clara County Superior Court against Alum Rock Union School District. It alleges that from 1970 to 1973, when the women were first graders at William R. Rogers Elementary, their teacher, identified in the lawsuit as Floyd Piper, would have the girls sit on his lap during class and touch them sexually.

The lawsuit said other students in the class noticed that the teacher “took a particular liking to female students who wore skirts or dresses,” and that one concerned parent met with the district vice principal in 1972 voicing concerns about the teacher's inappropri­ate conduct. The lawsuit alleged the district never followed up or reported the complaint to authoritie­s.

School officials have been required under California law to report suspected child abuse to authoritie­s since at least 1980 under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.

“The sad reality is that the effects of childhood sexual abuse have stayed with these women for more than five decades,” attorney Lauren Cerri said in a statement. “To say the abuse changed the lives of the three women is an understate­ment. They have lived with the guilt and the shame nearly their entire lives.”

Alum Rock Union School District had no immediate comment Feb. 7. William R. Rogers Elementary closed in 2014. Cerri's law firm, Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, said Piper has since died, which public records and obituaries seem to confirm.

The second lawsuit was filed Dec. 28 in Santa Cruz County Superior Court against Mountain View Whisman School District; Steve Myers, a teacher and vice principal at the district's Crittenden Middle School; and Traveling School Inc., a program Myers ran that was overseen by the Whisman and later by Santa Cruz City Schools districts.

According to the lawsuit, two of the accusers were students at Crittenden from 1970 to 1975, and the teacher groomed and abused them by giving them drugs, encouragin­g them to wear little or no clothing, disrobing in front of them and touching them inappropri­ately.

The other three accusers were students in the Traveling School program from 1987 to 1991 and claim they were subjected to similar abuse.

The lawsuit said California tax authoritie­s suspended the Traveling School program, which had been incorporat­ed in Santa Cruz County in 2000.

Mountain View Whisman and Santa Cruz City Schools districts had no immediate comment Feb. 7.

Santa Cruz police investigat­ed Myers in the 1990s in response to complaints about his interactio­ns with a seventh-grader and a 4-year-old boy he was trying to adopt, but never charged him because of jurisdicti­onal issues and the younger boy's age, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Investigat­ors wrote in police reports that Myers admitted sexual interactio­ns with children but contended that years of therapy had cured him of his attraction to boys.

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