Los Gatos’ public elementary school system has agreed to pay a total of $5.1 million to two men who were sexually abused as children by Blossom Hill Elementary School teacher Joseph Brian Houg, the lawyers for the victims said today.
The Los Gatos Union Elementary School District had been headed for trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Nov. 7, in the civil action brought by two men, represented by San Jose-based Corsiglia McMahon and Allard.
John Doe, who was sexually assaulted in early 2020, will receive $900,000, a spokesperson for the law firm said. John Doe 2, who was sexually abused in the 2008-2009 time period, will receive $4.2 million.
“John Doe 2’s abuse was so horrific that he’s still suffering from what happened to him when he was a little boy,” attorney Mark Boskovich said. “He can use this settlement to get the help he needs since he continues to suffer from anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.”
The settlement comes as the AB 218 statute-of-limitations-extension for victims of sexual abuse at public institutions is about to expire. Plaintiffs have until the end of the year to file historic claims.
Houg, the school’s former youth theater director, was sentenced in November 2021 to 35 years in prison for molesting 10 former Blossom Hill students, including Doe 2. Houg was convicted of three felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child by force, duress, menace or fear, for his abuse of Doe 2.
The boy was so ashamed and disgusted by the abuse that he took a cup of scalding hot water and purposely poured it onto his penis in an attempt to genitally mutilate himself, his lawyers said.
Parents also accused Houg of verbally abusing students.
“The school district failed to discipline Houg or supervise him more closely after multiple verbal abuse and sexual harassment complaints and this settlement acknowledges that fact,” Boskovich said. “We uncovered evidence of at least eleven complaints that were brought to the school’s attention between 2001 and 2020.”
LGUSD Superintendent Paul Johnson confirmed the settlement, Friday morning, without mentioning a specific dollar amount.
“The lawsuit involves two plaintiffs in connection with the criminal actions of Brian Houg, a former teacher who pled no contest to criminal complaints of child sexual abuse last year,” he said. “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.
The settlement was reached through mediation, he added.
“LGUSD takes these matters seriously and works closely with students and staff to ensure that safety policies and procedures are in place to prevent such actions from ever happening again,” he said. “We hope this settlement agreement will help to bring closure to the families involved.”
The other plaintiff, John Doe, was abused in January 2020 when he was 10 years old during a dress rehearsal for a school play.
Houg’s downfall came during the pandemic when he asked two 13-year-old boys to engage in inappropriate conduct during separate videoconferences.
The boys reported Houg and he was arrested in September 2020 by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies. He was suspended without pay by the school district shortly afterwards.
Boskovich says Houg’s abuse was “unprecedented,” adding school administrators didn’t do enough to protect the students under their care.
“Had the district documented and investigated the early complaints and properly supervised Houg, many kids would have been spared,” he said.
Also in Los Gatos, the Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District recently agreed to pay $3.485 million to a former Los Gatos student who was sexually abused by her track coach.
And in San Jose, the San Jose Union School District was ordered to pay two abused female students $102.5 million by a jury. The district also settled another case involving five men (who are now in their fifties) for $7.5 million.
“One of the reasons there are so many cases involving schools is because pedophiles go where the kids are,” Boskovich said. “It’s imperative schools understand they can’t protect teachers who are hurting kids.”
Boskovich is calling on elementary school leaders in Los Gatos’ district to “look at the administrators who failed to take action against Houg and make sure they are held accountable for their actions.”