A former teacher at Marlborough School, an elite all-girls school in Los Angeles, is expected to plead guilty to sexually abusing two of his ex-students,the Los Angeles Times reports.
Joseph Koetters, a former English teacher at $US35,000-a-year Marlborough, was charged with four criminal counts related to committing sex acts on minors that could have landed him in prison for 11 years.
He’ll receive a lesser sentence in exchange for pleading guilty, according to Leonard Levine, a lawyer representing Koetters.
The sexual abuse charges relate to two alleged incidents, one in 2000 and one in 2004, the details of which Vanity Fair reported on in February.
Vanity Fair told a disturbing story of sexual abuse and alleged administrative malfeasance, which only came to light after a college student posted a personal essay on xoJane.com in June 2014.
Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie, then a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote an essay about her experience being sexually harassed by an English teacher in high school.
In her essay, “IT HAPPENED TO ME: My High School English Teacher Told Me He Loved Me (And Nobody Did Anything),” she wrote about her deeply disturbing experience (excerpt below):
His hands brushed against my knee, rubbing the black nylon of my tights. He blushed as I jerked it away. It was a line I thought he wouldn’t cross, a physical barrier that I had trusted him to respect. I thanked him for the interview, and my friends asked me why I was so pale for the rest of the day. I said it was a migraine.
I stopped sleeping at night. If I ever did fall asleep I would wake up in the middle of the night wracked with guilt or sweating from nightmares. The power was slipping away from me, and I knew what he was doing was wrong, but I was in too deep and it was my fault. He told me that.
He said he was attracted to me because my short uniform skirt and tight polo shirt were too alluring. He said that if I hadn’t wanted his attention I wouldn’t have asked to interview him in the first place. He called me a temptress and a tease and told me that I was lucky to have gotten an A on my last paper because if it weren’t for my pretty eyes I wouldn’t have.
She ended the essay by claiming that even though the administration was made aware of the teacher’s behaviour, he wasn’t fired and continued to be everyone’s favourite teacher.
Though she didn’t name the teacher or the school, the description of her experience caused a viral uproar. Marlborough alums felt the details were all too relatable to be coincidence.
Other women reached out to Gilbert-Lurie after reading her account and the story eventually broke on Buzzfeed. Other news sources swiftly followed suit.
The national news of alleged sexual abuse at the 126-year-old all girls-school caused the Marlborough community erupt into anger and repulsion. They demanded an investigation by the school’s board which eventually revealed a “pattern of misconduct by Joe Koetters,” according to Vanity Fair.
But the torrent of damaging details didn’t stop there. Vanity Fair interviewed one of the women named in the case against Koetters. They referred to her as Holly, a pseudonym, to maintain her anonymity. Holly read Gilbert-Lurie’s personal essay on xoJane.com and felt ill, according to her remarks in Vanity Fair.
She was immediately reminded of her own experience as a teenager with Koetters. She said that they started a sexual relationship when she was 16 and that he made her feel like the “smartest, funniest, most beautiful person walking the planet.”
When she ended up pregnant he became “clinical” and worked out the details for her to get an abortion, she said.
She ended up miscarrying.
She lashed out at the school administration, accusing the former head of Marlborough of letting students down by never appropriately investigating claims of inappropriate behaviour from Koetters. She also hired a lawyer.
The current head of Marlborough, Dr. Priscilla Sands, provided a statement to Business Insider following news of Koetters’ plea deal. “We are grateful to the courageous alumnae who came forward, as well as law enforcement and the district attorney’s office for bringing Dr. Koetters to justice,” Sands wrote.
“There is no greater priority at Marlborough School than the safety and well-being of our students. We hope this resolution will help the women involved continue to heal.”
For now, it appears that Koetters will serve jail time after he pleads guilty in court next week. It’s less clear whether there will be any ramifications for the school.
“Mr. Koetters will accept responsibility in the criminal court for his sexual crimes against these girls,” David Ring, the lawyer representing both victims, told the Times today.
“I hope Marlborough will now own up and admit its fault in allowing this to occur under its watch.”
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