UNION CITY -- Police say third-grade teacher Michael Howey made sure he had extracurricular activities for girls -- specifically arts and crafts, during recess for a choice group of students who made his "cutiest (sic) girl list."
Howey, 47, who now faces dozens of charges related to inappropriate behavior with his students, sent the other girls and the boys to the playground, court documents show. After isolating his nine select female students -- whom he told he was "rewarding" for being good students -- he would give the girls long hugs, rub their bellies and kiss them on the mouth, police say.
He even had some girls sit on his lap inside his classroom at Alvarado Elementary School, according to a 6-page probable cause affidavit filed this month. The inappropriate behavior went on until April 12, when police say another teacher reported seeing him kiss one of the students during recess. She alerted the school principal, who interviewed his students and then alerted police.
Howey was arrested May 1 without incident at his home in Alameda. He was taken to Santa Rita Jail, where he has been held on $750,000 bail since his arrest.
On Monday, he was arraigned at the Fremont Hall of Justice on 17 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and 23 counts of annoying and molesting a child.
Howey, who police say has no criminal history, was also set to enter a plea but the case was postponed until June 5, said Alameda County District Attorney's Office spokesman Eamon O'Connor. When Howey appears back in court next month, his lawyer also plans to ask the judge to reduce his bail, O'Connor said.
In interviews with police, some of the nine victims called their teacher's actions disgusting and uncomfortable but said they were afraid to tell their parents because they didn't want to make them mad, according to the affidavit.
The victims told police their teacher kissed them on the lips, nose, forehead and neck during recess, called them cute and stylish and would compliment their hair, clothing and ponytails, court records show. A few victims said he put his hands under their clothing or touched their buttocks as they sat face forward on his lap, the affidavit shows.
One victim told police that her teacher had a "cutiest (sic) girl list and a goodiest (sic) girl list."One victim, when interviewed, cried when she said her teacher kissed her lips and forehead and that "she felt like it happened every day." She told officers that sometime after spring break, her teacher pulled her aside, praised her for a good test score and then kissed her lips during recess, court records show. The girl said she ran outside to get away.
"It's very apparent Howey provided extracurricular activities for (students) to work on during recess, especially arts and crafts that are appealing to female students only," Detective Jean Luevano wrote in the affidavit. "This isolated the girls from view and made his hugs and kisses 'normal' to the other students who witnessed it as Howey often acted as if it was a reward for their efforts."
Court records show Howey initially refused to speak to police after his arrest, but later asked to speak with a detective. He said that during recess he comforted one student with a hug after she did not do well on a test.
"Howey denied ever giving her a kiss and said he wasn't sure if there was a policy or procedure that prohibited teachers from doing that," the affidavit reads.
When the detective told Howey the investigation involved more than one student, he hung his head, cried and "admitted he had made some mistakes" then asked for his lawyer, the affidavit continues.
Howey has worked for the district for 14 years; he was hired in 1997 but had taken a couple of years off, said Derek McNamara, the chief personnel officer for New Haven Unified School District. Howey has taught at Alvarado Elementary, Cabello Elementary and Cesar Chavez Middle School from kindergarten to middle school. School officials said Howey had no disciplinary incidents on his record before the allegations.
As of Monday, he remained on paid administrative leave.
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.