In October, former Los Angeles’ Marlborough teacher Joseph Koetters pleaded guilty to four counts of abuse in relation to two students, out of 14 of the original charges he faced. He was sentenced to a year in jail. Now one of his victims is suing the school for failing to protect her, but they think it was her fault.
The plaintiff filed her civil lawsuit against Marlborough in April of 2015. The original complaint alleged that the school hired Koetters though they were aware he had previously been accused of misconduct at two other private schools. It also said they failed to investigate at least two student complaints against him, and when matters escalated they helped him find a job at yet another private school instead of firing him (preferably out of a cannon into the sun).
Since Koetters’ trial, Marlborough has attempted to redeem itself through strategic PR moves, issuing a public apology and acknowledging some of its failures. The head of the school, Barbara Wagner, also stepped down after 26 years at her post. Behind the scenes, they are apparently not so contrite. BuzzFeed reports that in court papers filed in March, Marlborough’s lawyers say that the plaintiff is at fault for any mental and emotional damage she’s suffered since her tenure at the school:
The woman was “negligent and careless and said negligence and carelessness contributed to and proximately caused the injuries and damages” she is claiming, the filing states. Also, by not reporting her abuse to the school or police until 2014, she “consciously exposed other girls to the risk of abuse at Koetters’ hands.”
California recently barred defendants accused of sexually abusing children from using a “consent” defense in civil cases. Yet Marlborough is still arguing the victim should be held accountable for being molested, said the woman’s lawyer, David M. Ring.
“Marlborough says all the right things publicly, but behind the scenes this is what is really taking place: blame the teenage victim,” he said.
The plaintiff was abused by Koetters in the early 2000s, but didn’t come forward until 2014. She was inspired by an essay another former student of Koetters wrote for xoJane, in which the author says that she reported her teacher’s inappropriate advances to Marlborough, and all he got was counseling. All she got was a creepy predator staring at her until she graduated.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.