Viewpoint School in Calabasas, California
Viewpoint School, an elite private K-12 school in Calabasas, California, allegedly helped a teacher accused of serious misconduct land another job by giving him deceptively glowing references, according to recent court filings.
The next school the teacher, Joseph Koetters, taught at was the all-girl's Marlborough School in Los Angeles. In 2015, Koetters pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two former 16-year-old Marlborough students in the early 2000s and served a year in jail. One of those students, now in her early thirties, sued Marlborough last year for allegedly failing to protect her from being sexually abused and impregnated by Koetters.
Now, the woman seeks to add Viewpoint, which counts Donald Trump’s daughter Tiffany among its alumni, as a defendant to her civil case.
Following BuzzFeed News' first report on allegations against Koetters in July 2014, Marlborough launched an internal investigation, changed its policies, publicly apologized to Koetters’ victims and acknowledged its failure to respond to some of their allegations. Marlborough's head of school also resigned.
The motion filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court earlier this month claims new evidence shows Viewpoint did not tell Marlborough about Koetters' “repeated misconduct and inappropriate sexual behavior” while he was a teacher there from 1998-1999, even though Viewpoint administrators “clearly felt” it “endangered students.”
Koetters' behavior included “improperly touching a female student, getting into a physical altercation with a male student, and openly flirting with, and sexually harassing, female students on campus,” according to the filing, which added: “Viewpoint’s knowing misrepresentations foreseeably resulted in Marlborough hiring Koetters, where he then sexually harassed and abused plaintiff (among others).”
Viewpoint did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The court filing cites deposition testimony from former Viewpoint Head of School Robert J. Dworkoski, who said he felt that Koetters had demonstrated a clear pattern of misconduct while at Viewpoint. Dworkoski chastised Koetters for his behavior in a letter obtained by the plaintiff’s lawyers, in which he told Koetters he might ask him to see a medical professional.
Ultimately, the motion states, Dworkoski decided Koetters would not be allowed to return to Viewpoint the following year. He said Marlborough never called him to ask about Koetters, and that he wouldn't have recommended Koetters to any other school. In fact, he said, he would have told them to “stay away.”
But Marlborough provided a letter of recommendation from Viewpoint and handwritten notes allegedly documenting a conversation Dworkowski had with a Marlborough representative before the school hired him that reflected “nothing but praise for Koetters,” according to the court filing.
“If true, Viewpoint's knowing misrepresentations resulted in Marlborough hiring Koetters who then continued his pattern of sexual harassment and abuse of female students, including plaintiff,” states the new filing, which seeks to add causes of action for intentional misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation.
The new motion does not take Marlborough off the hook, instead arguing the school should have vetted Koetters more thoroughly, and that if it had done so, administrators would have “learned of his clear history of prior sexual misconduct toward female students.”
The motion also includes deposition testimony from a headmaster at another local school who said he had been advised by a Viewpoint teacher who worked with Koetters not to hire him because he was the “campus pervert” and acted “wildly inappropriate with female students, including looking up their skirts and openly flirting and sexually harassing them on campus.”
The plaintiff alleges Marlborough officials, when faced with misconduct complaints against Koetters, did the same as Viewpoint, helping him get another job at Polytechnic School.
“It’s outrageous to see two of LA’s elite private schools engage in a classic ‘pass the trash’ scheme to rid themselves of a problem teacher,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, David M. Ring.