SAN JOSE -- A San Jose jury Friday found school girls and their families liable for damaging the reputation of a Catholic school teacher they accused of inappropriately touching the children and peeking into a girls' bathroom.

Holy Spirit Catholic school in Almaden Valley school and later police cleared physical education teacher John Fischler of sexual misconduct.

But Fischler, claiming that the ordeal indelibly stained his reputation and ruined his teaching career, brought suit, leading to a rare defamation trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The civil trial epitomizes the tension between two societal aims -- encouraging victims to report perceived abuse and restoring the reputation of the wrongfully accused.

Fischler would get at least $362,000 in economic damages and a second phase of the trial is set to begin Monday on how much the alleged "ringleader" girl, now 14, will have to pay in punitive damages.



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