MARTINEZ -- A lawsuit filed against the Mt. Diablo school district alleges that administrators ignored complaints of misconduct by Concord elementary schoolteacher Joseph Andrew Martin years before police began investigating him for child molestation.
In a civil suit filed Monday morning against Martin, the school district and 10 unnamed mandated reporters, attorney Daniel Horowitz likens Woodside Elementary School teacher Joseph Andrew Martin's classroom to Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch and writes that "numerous parents and teachers made reports to supervisors and other persons with both the ability and authority to protect the children and that these reports were largely ignored."
Jayne Williams, the district's interim general counsel, said she was unaware of the lawsuit, because no papers had yet been served on the district. She said the district had not received any claims related to the lawsuit or the charges filed by the District Attorney's Office.
Martin, 45, remains jailed in lieu of $10 million bail after pleading not guilty last week to 91 felony counts alleging he molested 11 former students between 2006 and April this year. Concord police said most of the incidents occurred on campus.
Martin, an employee of the school district since 1991, was arrested at his Martinez home June 27.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is an unnamed minor who was in Martin's Woodside Elementary School class in the 2009-2010 school year. Horowitz said the child is not among the children Martin is charged with molesting but was subjected to back rubs and other physical attention by Martin.
Horowitz said the child has standing to bring forth a lawsuit, despite not being one of the victims alleged by the District Attorney's Office.
"What the DA does is irrelevant to this lawsuit," Horowitz said. "(Martin) was doing a massive recruitment and targeting kids with issues."
Police said they began investigating the fourth and fifth grade teacher April 25 -- the same day Martin was placed on leave and banned from campus -- based on a report from the school.
The lawsuit describes Martin's classroom as an isolated, single portable unit with windows blocked with children's pictures and other items so it was impossible to look inside. During the 2009-2010 school year, Horowitz says Martin told his client and other students "not to talk to their parents about their classroom activities."
It was in the classroom that Martin regularly performed back rubs on his client and other students in an effort to groom them for molestation, the lawsuit alleges. Students who received the most back rubs and other personal attention were offered major roles in Martin's self-developed film and acting projects that he had students devote a large portion of their time to, the lawsuit reads.
"These offers were accompanied by increased physical touching and increased unwanted and excessive personal attention," Horowitz wrote. "During the time with defendant Martin, J. Doe began to emotionally withdraw from his family. When asked about school activities, J. Doe would refuse to answer. When pressed, he would become angry and still refuse to speak."
Horowitz wrote that Martin "had turned his classroom into a type of cult invoking images such as Michael Jackson's Neverland or Pinocchio's Pleasure Island. The common theme is the lack of rules, play emphasis, lack of outside supervision, lack of accountability, us against them mentality to protect this special world from the outside -- all as a cover for recruiting ..."
Horowitz wrote that his client's parents reported their concerns to Woodside's principal during the 2009-2010 school year and were told that "Martin just had a different style of teaching and that the children achieved very high standardized test scores."
Horowitz told this newspaper that he expects more of Martin's former students will join the lawsuit as plaintiffs.
"The real issue is who let him do that in exchange for good scores on standardized tests, who let him get away with this," Horowitz said.
Williams and John Bernard, interim superintendent of the Mt. Diablo school district, said they did not know which school administrators alerted police.
Staff writer Theresa Harrington contributed to this story. Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.