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Michael Howey makes an appearance in an arraignment hearing at the Fremont Hall of Justice, in Fremont, Calif., on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Howey a Union City elementary school teacher pleaded "not guilty" to charges of molesting several of his students at Alvarado Elementary School. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

UNION CITY -- A Bay Area third-grade teacher facing more than a dozen charges for allegedly fondling and molesting 10 of his female students at a Union City school pleaded not guilty to the felony charges on Wednesday.

Michael Howey, 47, who taught at Alvarado Elementary School, was arrested May 1 in connection with the allegations that court records show took place from October 2010 through April 2013.

Howey, who has been held on $850,000 bail at the Santa Rita Jail since his arrest, appeared for a morning hearing at the Fremont Hall of Justice in the courtroom of Judge Dennis McLaughlin. Dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, he stood beside his Attorney Elizabeth Grossman as some of the victims' family members sat in the courtroom gallery.

Other than responding, "Yes" and "No" to the judge, he remained silent throughout the hearing before pleading not guilty to two counts of forcible sexual penetration on child, six counts of a lewd act upon a child and six counts of child molestation.

Following the plea, at a prosecutor's request, the judge issued an order of protection for the 10 victims in the event Howey posts his nearly million-dollar bail. The judge then scheduled a pretrial hearing for Sept. 19.

Police say Howey, who has no criminal history and who lives in Alameda, 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."

Court documents show he sent the other girls and the boys to the Alvarado elementary school playground and after isolating his 10 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.

The behavior went on until April 12, when police said 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.

During police interviews, some of the 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, a probable cause affidavit shows.

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. .

Howey was placed on paid administrative leave on April 12, then placed on leave without pay on May 22 after a unanimous vote by New Haven Unified School District board members.

Before his arrest, Howey worked for the district for 14 years; he was hired in 1997 but had taken a couple of years off, school officials said. Besides Alvarado, he taught at Cabello elementary and Cesar Chavez middle schools. School officials said Howey had no disciplinary incidents on his record.

A preliminary hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 19. Lawyers in the case said they anticipate the hearing to last a few days.

Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.