An article about alleged victims of sexual abuse by former Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Martin incorrectly reported the time frame of the alleged abuse of Tina Jones' older son. The boy said the abuse started during fifth grade and escalated after he graduated.
CONCORD -- Weeks after starting fifth grade, Tina Jones' son didn't want to go to school. It got so bad he started throwing up at the very thought of attending Joseph Martin's class at Woodside Elementary school.
Jones thought her son's anxiety was due to math struggles, but a call from Concord police detectives at the end of the 2012-13 school year confirmed every parent's worst nightmare -- police believed the boy and his older brother were being molested by Martin.
Sitting on a bench in the courtyard of his family's Concord church Friday, the boy, now 12, wiped tears from his eyes with his black hoodie as he remembered those horrible nights.
"It was ... I really haven't thought about it," the young boy said, choking up, as his mom comforted him.
Martin has pleaded not guilty to 125 felony molestation charges involving 13 former students at the Concord school. The case is scheduled for trial in March.
Many of the victims described how the popular teacher would massage them under their shirt and fondle their groins while holding a book over their laps in class, according to police reports and claims.
In 2006, after teachers complained of suspicious behavior by Martin, the district launched an internal investigation, and an outside law firm found "allegations (against Martin) did at least suggest the subject matter of potential child abuse."
Jones and her two sons are the first accusers to speak publicly in the abuse scandal that has rocked the Mt. Diablo school district.
"We want to shed light on the whole subject of mandated reporting, to shed light on how even extremely involved families can have a predator work his way into their family and into the life of a child," said Jones, 40.
Despite a state law requiring school employees to report any child abuse suspicions to law enforcement, the district made no such report and instead gave Martin a list of restrictions on how he could teach and interact with students, according to a police report. Jones and the families of nearly all the accusers have filed claims or lawsuits saying district employees failed to properly report earlier abuse.
The district did not respond to a request for comment Friday. This newspaper has sued the school district to get a copy of the 2006 internal report.
Martin is believed to have followed a pattern common with child molesters: groom the victims and surrounding communities, Jones said, as she sat with her two sons on a bench at Fair Oaks Baptist Church.
Most of her older children were home-schooled, but she decided to send her first son to the public school two blocks away from her house in the fall of 2010.
"I liked his class," the older brother, now 14, said through his braces. "He was like the cool teacher at school, and I felt lucky to get him."
Martin was known for his unconventional classroom, spending most of the school year filming and rehearsing a musical with his students. Jones' sons both had roles in "School House Rock."
Martin entered the family's life in spring 2011 after Jones started asking questions about what the sex education curriculum would entail, telling him she had some reservations based on her Christian faith.
"He portrayed himself as a Christian, so we invited him to different events at our church," she said.
Jones, who was dealing with health issues and on bed rest for five months while pregnant with twins, began to lean on Martin. The teacher's first child was on the way, and he shared health advice through email and Facebook.
Jones said she began sending her older child's hand-me-downs to Martin, and he became a "family friend."
Her older son's abuse started after he graduated and would return to campus to play basketball with friends; Martin would join the games, he said. At the request of Martin, Jones enrolled her younger son in his class for the 2012-13 school year. The boy quickly began showing signs of trouble. In emails, Martin downplayed his student's behavior, saying it involved academic issues, Jones said.
By the end of the school year, police began investigating Martin, and he was pulled from class. Parents were told he left to attend to a family emergency, Jones said.
"I told him, 'Is there anything I can do to help?' and 'Please know that we will be praying for you,' " Jones said.
Last May, however, a Concord detective called her and told her that two of her sons' names were mentioned in the police molestation investigation of Martin. The details came out in subsequent interviews.
"When someone's ingrained themselves in your family, and they're portraying themselves as not just a trusted teacher but as a trusted family friend who's also of a similar faith, it's very difficult ... It just shows how someone can manipulate you," Jones said.
"It's been a whole realm of emotions. The first for my husband was extreme anger. I would say for me, I had just a tremendous sadness and a lot of guilt that I had missed so many things that now became clear," she said.
Jones and her two sons are expected to testify at Martin's March trial.
"In an ideal world, I'd like to see him own up to what he did. I don't think that will happen. I'd like to see a jury find him responsible and have him receive a just punishment," she said. "I'm beyond frustrated that there are people working with children right now who didn't follow the law. I hope charges will be brought against everybody who knew and didn't report and covered things up."
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.