Lawsuit details new misconduct allegations against Marlborough teacher

Former Marlborough School teacher Joseph Thomas Koetters, left, is arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court on felony sex counts.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday detailed new allegations of sexual misconduct by a former Marlborough School teacher, including a reported history of sexual abuse of students at other Los Angeles-area private schools that were apparently ignored when he was hired at the Hancock Park all-girls school.

The lawsuit, filed by an unnamed 30-year-old former Marlborough student, alleges that the teacher initiated a yearlong sexual relationship with her in 2000, when she was 16.

The lawsuit also said that Marlborough ignored past allegations of sexual misconduct by Joseph Thomas Koetters at Polytechnic School in Pasadena and Viewpoint School in Calabasas.


Marlborough failed to investigate complaints against the teacher or to alert authorities to possible abuse and stood by as Koetters preyed on at least two other students over more than a decade on campus, according to the lawsuit.

School officials also apparently helped him secure another teaching job rather than fire him and failed to alert Polytechnic School of the allegations of sexual misconduct before Koetters was rehired there in 2013, the woman said in the lawsuit.

“Because the matter is the subject of a criminal investigation and now in litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time,” Marlborough spokeswoman Carly Rodriguez said in a statement.

Koetters, who was arrested in February, faces criminal charges related to his time at Marlborough, including two counts each of oral copulation and penetration with a foreign object involving someone under 18, according to the district attorney’s office. He is accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student beginning in 2000.

Koetters, 47, pleaded not guilty to all charges and is free on $140,000 bail.

David M. Ring, an attorney who represents the former student, said the unnamed plaintiff in the civil case is the same woman mentioned in the criminal proceeding against Koetters.

Neither Marlborough School nor Koetters were identified in the lawsuit because of a procedural rule.

Attorney Leonard Levine, who represents Koetters, said he was unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Polytechnic School said in a statement that an independent investigation last year found no evidence that its administrators were aware of any misconduct by Koetters during his one year there in the 1990s.

Officials at Viewpoint could not be reached for comment.

The alleged victim and plaintiff in the civil case came forward to police in July after sexual harassment allegations against Koetters surfaced in an essay by another former Marlborough student that was published last year in the online magazine xoJane.

The story was first reported in 2014 by BuzzFeed.

The lawsuit alleges that Koetters was forced to resign from his job at Polytechnic School in 1992 after the administration learned that he engaged in “unlawful sexual acts” with a student.

After his time at Polytechnic, he began graduate school in Santa Barbara, where he worked as a teacher’s assistant in an undergraduate class. According to the lawsuit, an 18-year-old female student said that he repeatedly made sexual comments and advances toward her.

Koetters began teaching at Viewpoint School in Calabasas, but was fired after apparently shoving a male student and amid complaints from female students.

Before being hired at Marlborough in 1999, a school official contacted Polytechnic and Viewpoint for a reference and was alerted to the allegations of sexual misconduct, the woman said in the lawsuit.

Koetters downplayed the allegations and denied any sexual acts, according to the lawsuit. He began teaching at Marlborough in the 1999-2000 school year.

In the lawsuit, the former student said she was manipulated into a sexual relationship with Koetters in 2000 and eventually became pregnant by the teacher and had a miscarriage.

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