Leann Anderson was four months away from her 18th birthday when she proudly graduated from high school. The Bonny Doon girl had struggled to overcome dyslexia. But in the end she won.
“You managed! Congratulations! “Came the supportive, albeit profane, message – allegedly from Eric Kahl, the teacher who, she says, was a freshman who showed interest in her back for the first time and increased that attention in her senior year I looked hot doing it, “she replied.” Duh, “he wrote back according to the allegations.
His next comments, which Anderson shared in the form of screenshots of the conversation with the press banner, sparked a wave of confusion that later led her to look back on special attention Kahl had given her during her high school career and moments she says that he inappropriately touched students, including her. Anderson says she is concerned for the welfare of current students as other current and former students bring up disturbing stories about what they have seen at schools in the San Lorenzo Valley over the past few years.
At least three current or former teachers are now represented by Joe Cisneros of the Monterey-based law firm Biegel, who says Kahl did not maintain, touch, or use social media to inappropriately communicate with students. According to interviews conducted by the press banner after reviewing Anderson’s social media posts and screenshots of conversations between her and Kahl, at least seven current or former employees of the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District have been accused of inappropriate behavior in recent years . Two defendants are already charged in court.
During the reported graduation day exchange between Kahl and Anderson, the social teacher inquired about the illegal drugs that one of Anderson’s friends would likely be taking on the occasion. The message shared with the press banner included three smileys that read “I hope she didn’t take too much Molly,” which Anderson said not to worry. The sender then submitted at least five psychedelic “.gif” photos, including an Alice in Wonderland-style meme that said, “EAT ME”. After she left school, Instagram private messages continued. The district prohibits teachers from using social media to communicate with students (with the exception of certain school projects) and former students who are under the age of majority.
After she turned 18, Anderson – along with maybe a million other like-minded entrepreneurs during the pandemic – began experimenting with paid content on the OnlyFans website. She says that she followed her there too. She began to wonder how strange it was that their relationship had shifted so quickly from an authority figure working with a teen with a language-based learning disability to an older man who paid her for risky photos. And she couldn’t help but think back to all the times in her senior year when, as she says, he accidentally grazed private body parts in passing.
Kahl’s lawyer, Cisneros, denied doing anything like that.
“He will defend himself when it comes to this point and I’m not sure if it will,” Cisneros said, adding that while postgraduate contact might seem “inappropriate” it doesn’t necessarily make it a policy violation.
Anderson’s experience is one of the many stories submitted on the @santacruzsurvivorsspeak Instagram page. While most commenters are anonymous, some have tagged their names or phone numbers with their statements so administrators can review them or give them to authorities.
In an email to the press banner, the social media account founders, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they were alumni of San Lorenzo Valley High School trying to “raise awareness and support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse spread “that they encouraged other sexual assault survivors to come forward.
“We’re here to change the course of our community and push for a better system, ie: approval classes for students, new faculty at slv (sic), better faculty education,” the email said. “We have recognized for some time that the culture in particular at SLV has many problems, and we wanted to do something about it, but never had the platform before.”
Not only was it Kahl’s inappropriate touch that Anderson grappled with, but also situations where she said he would sit near her and help her cheat instead of trying to teach her techniques to overcome dyslexia.
“He should actually have helped me and helped me get an education,” she said.
After Anderson accused Kahl in a March letter to the district, she inspired more people to speak to educators in the Felton area about what happened to them. Stories range from sexualization during class to prolonged touching to shoulder abrasion that should never have happened – and even several more serious allegations of sexual abuse.
Some of the most disturbing allegations concerned William Winkler, a teacher who has taught in the district for more than 30 years. Both Kahl and Winkler have been sent home on vacation while school officials review the evidence. Cisneros, who also represents Winkler, denied the allegations of sexual assault against his client.
“He denies he did anything,” he said. “There is no reason for him to have paid administrative leave.”
Critics say Winkler should not have been allowed entry to students after he was arrested for domestic abuse in 2010. At that point, the prosecution decided not to bring charges. The school district declined to say whether or not it had conducted its own internal investigation at the time.
According to Laurie Bruton, the district’s superintendent, the district is trying to better understand firsthand the accounts and formal complaints received.
“As with most investigations, we need to sort anonymous and unnamed allegations in order to guide action,” she said in an email interview. “As soon as we have this initial information, we will investigate further immediately. This triggers our obligation to report to law enforcement authorities. We will continue to work with them if they carry out further investigations. Once we determine that someone has violated district policies, the individual will receive appropriate disciplinary action pending termination. “
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ashley Keehn said investigators are working with the school district to determine if crimes have been committed related to the Santa Cruz Survivors Speak allegations. She said there were no charges and no arrests were made.
“We take all reports of sexual assault or misconduct seriously and investigate them fully,” she said. “We also encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence to contact us.”
This week Michael Henderson, a retired middle and high school tech teacher in the San Lorenzo Valley, flew from his new home in Washington state for his appointments at the Santa Cruz County Supreme Court. He was forced to answer by the judge on four indecent acts involving a minor under the age of 14. His case is currently on trial and he remains on a $ 150,000 loan.
On the first day of the preliminary hearing, April 19, the senior sex crimes investigator testified on the case that it was not disclosure of the girl in any of her electoral classes that prompted the sheriff’s office to become involved. They started investigating, Sgt. Socorro Luna said after the girl developed an eating disorder and her mother was trying to find out what was going on.
Luna testified the girl said that during her private and after-school music lessons, Henderson would instruct her to go upstairs and tell everyone else to go before they turn off the lights and touch her inappropriately. This included weird hugs and touching her buttocks at least once during a massage-like activity called “moving the wood chips,” Luna said. “Oh, you’ve got wood chips on your bum,” said Henderson, just before that inappropriate contact, the girl remembered, heard the court. The girl also said Henderson touched her chest three times and committed other illegal sexual acts, Luna testified. Defense attorney George Gigarjian attempted to poke holes in the accounts, managed to get the judge to dismiss a potential piece of evidence, and get Luna to confirm that law enforcement was never actually on the scene – right across from the San Lorenzo Valley Middle School / High School – where the crime allegedly occurred.
In a telephone recording – taken as evidence at the preliminary hearing – of the girl who spoke to Henderson, he admitted to isolating her upstairs in private class, asking her to lie down and put his hand on her back, however, denied inappropriate contact. During that phone call, which had previously filed charges, he apologized several times and agreed to call children “pretty” and “lovely,” Luna said. When asked for questioning, Henderson was asked if he wanted to hug children. “Sometimes children just need to be hugged,” Luna recalled, adding that sometimes children run up to him with open arms, but sometimes “he just knew” that they needed a hug when they didn’t give such an obvious indication.
On the third day of the preliminary hearing, April 21, prosecutor’s inspector Kelli Freitas testified that a teacher expressed regret for not reporting the girl’s allegations. She also said she spoke to three other witnesses who told her about other incidents where Henderson gave other girls shoulder massages during class in middle school – or made them otherwise uncomfortable. Once the client was notified, but no action was taken, two of the witnesses said, Freitas testified.
Henderson’s next trial is June 9th.
When asked about the case, Bruton insisted that the reported incidents were said to have taken place outside of the district, that Henderson was removed from school immediately when the allegations came to light, and that he was released after his arrest.
“The district has also provided professional conduct training on social media, after-school activities, and community events for school staff,” Bruton said. “There are codes of conduct for employees that are absolutely expected and enforced.”