Los Gatos School Districts Settle One Sex Abuse Case, Headed for Trial in Another

The Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District has agreed to pay a former student athlete $3.485 million for sexual abuse that she said she endured for more than three years, in a settlement announced this week.

Beginning in 1999, the plaintiff in the case, identified as student “Jane Doe,” accused Los Gatos High School Assistant Track Coach Chioke Robinson of grooming her to accept his sexual advances when she was a 14-year-old freshman

In a separate lawsuit, brought by parents of two alleged sexual abuse victims of longtime youth theater director and elementary school teacher Joseph Brian Houg, the Los Gatos Elementary Union School District is headed for trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court Nov. 7, the same day that Robinson’s criminal trial is to begin.

Houg pleaded no contest to 10 felony counts of child molestation and in December was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Plaintiffs in both cases are represented by the San Jose law firm, Corsiglia McMahon & Allard. In both cases, lawyers say the two Los Gatos school districts ignored complaints from students for years.

“This tragedy never should have happened,” said Lauren Cerri, the attorney for the former Los Gatos High School student.

“Another young female track athlete testified that she told head coach Willie Harmatz in 1998 that she was uncomfortable around Robinson,” she said. That girl’s complaints fell on deaf ears. All Harmatz did in response was tell the girl to run on the other side of the track away from where Robinson was training the girls’ track team.”

In late 1999, the girl’s mother found a discarded pregnancy test in her wastebasket, along with a love letter from Robinson. Administrators at the high school including Principal Trudy McCulloch and Coach Willie Harmatz were informed.

“When another student disclosed that she had seen Robinson abusing [the girl], Harmatz went to the girl’s house and threatened to ruin her athletic career if she didn’t stop ‘lying’ about Robinson, according to sworn testimony from the student,” Cerri said. “Harmatz should have taken steps to protect this student but he instead covered up the brewing scandal.”

Robinson was never disciplined; he was fired in March 2001.

“Even after other students told the school they had seen Robinson kissing me and engaging in sexual acts with me, the school allowed him to continue coaching,” the girl said. “They cared more about the track team winning than protecting students.”

The abuse victim had participated in the Junior Olympics and broke all the records in the high jump for her age group. By the time she was 11 years old, Jane was the second-best high jumper in the state.

Cerri said the girl’s dreams of becoming an Olympian were shattered by the abuse that was enabled by the school district.

Although Jane Doe’s sexual abuse occurred in the late ‘90s, she was able to sue the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District because of Assembly Bill 218, which extended the California statute of limitations and allows older sexual abuse claims to be litigated through December 2022.

“The window on these cases is closing,” Cerri said. “It’s imperative that sexual abuse victims come forward now.”

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. It’s amazing how many of these cases get swept under the rug. At my high school there was a music teacher who got a hotel room for himself and a female student when the band went on a trip to Hawaii. He was fired but never ended up charged or in the media. Someone should do a FOIA request to Campbell Union High School District on why they fired Jesse Sanchez.

  2. Wow! I am so disturbed and outraged at how these girls had to deal with this for as long as they had and even after one of the girls said something, she got ignored like what happened didn’t matter and neither did she. Also, I’m at such a disbelief that a Teacher at the school refused to take their female student serious and just shrugged it off like nothing. I feel so sorry for the young lady’s that this happened to and I hope that they find the strength to keep living and doing things to heal them from what happened to them.

  3. I feel sorry for those who suffered or are suffering. This high school and the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District have discriminated against students in the protected group. The district and their attorneys play sophisticated tricks and have staff members cover up discrimination and revenge students. They can and dare to do anything to suppress discrimination complaints.

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