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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Magic Mornings’ With Creepy Teacher

(CN) - A Bay Area school district could have prevented the sexual abuse of seven boys by an elementary school teacher who acted like a "Pied Piper" by playing games with them and invited them into his classroom after hours, seven sets of parents claim in court.

The John Doe students Nos. 3 through 9 and their parents sued Mount Diablo Unified School District; the alleged abuser, Joseph A. Martin; three principals, Jenny Cronan, Michelle Batesole and Jennifer Sachs; school superintendents Steven Lawrence and Gary McHenry; the districts general counsel Greg Rolen; school board members Linda Mayo, Gary Eberhart, Dick Allen and April Treece ,and the wife of the late William E Leal.

In the lawsuit in Contra Costa Court, the parents of boys who were 9 to 11 claim that Martin, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Woodside Elementary School, "repeatedly put his hands down plaintiffs' shirts, rubbing their bare chests and stomachs, positioning books on their laps so as to sweep their groins and penises in the process, and continually coming up from behind them and giving them long overly affectionate and inappropriate hugs."

Martin, a popular teacher among students and parents, "lured young male students to him, grooming them for his advances," the complaint states.

The students claims Martin "would play basketball with them, changing his clothes before them in the classroom. He would play games in the classroom with them. These boys would arrive after school and knock on the door. Martin would let them in and then close the door, locking it. One night, a teacher who complained about Martin's inappropriate conduct, tried to open the door only to find it locked. She also noticed that the boys did not leave until about 7 p.m. or 8 p.m."

The parents claim the boys were too young to understand Martin's actions, but they "felt intimidated, threatened and coerced - even scared - by Martin at the time of his harassment and abuse, but said nothing because they did not understand the gravity of his actions or the damage that it was causing."

Some of them called him "creepy" and "weird," the parents say.

The parents claim Mount Diablo Unified School District had received a number of complaints about Martin's over the years, but "they 'buried' the complaints and did nothing; the mandatory reporting obligations imposed by the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act were ignored, even in the fact of the District's own outside investigator's conclusion that ... 'this report would not be honest and its conclusions not fully supported if I did not report the circumstances surrounding these allegations that at least suggest the subject matter of potential child abuse.'"

One teacher complained that she found Martin and a 12- or 13-year-old boy in a closet in his classroom, while another teacher complained that she saw Martin walking with a student in an "overly intimate fashion," the complaints states.

Yet another teacher complained about Martin's "Magic Mornings," during which he played loud music, turned off the lights in his classroom, and turned on a disco ball and strobe lights.

Martin's actions came to light on April 25, 2013, when the parents of one plaintiff contacted the Concord Police Department and claimed Martin had inappropriately touched their son. Martin was arrested on June 27 and eventually charged with 125 felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with children.

He is scheduled to go to trial in March.

The parents seek damages for negligence and sexual battery.

They are represented by Stan Casper with Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook of Walnut Creek, Calif.

Follow @jamierossCNS
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