Reports of inappropriate behavior, abuse by Bay Area teachers prompt concerns over online learning safety

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ByChris Nguyen KGO logo
Saturday, September 5, 2020
How to protect your child online during distance learning
Reports of inappropriate behavior, abuse by Bay Area teachers on Zoom has prompt some concerns over online learning safety. Here are some tips to keep them safe.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Los Gatos teacher and youth theater director was arrested this week after reports of inappropriate behavior on Zoom which eventually led investigators to a former student who said he was sexually abused.

The case against 50-year-old Joseph Houg, also known as Brian, began in May after a 13-year-old boy stepped forward to say that the now-former director of Los Gatos Youth Theater made him uncomfortable during a one-on-one Zoom by repeatedly asking him to reveal his stomach until he eventually complied.

RELATED: Contra Costa County PE teacher accused of sexual abuse against 2 students

Another 13-year-old boy said that Houg wanted to see his underwear during a separate Zoom call. This led to an investigation in which authorities heard from a man who said he was sexually assaulted by the Blossom Hill Elementary teacher in 2008.

A search of Houg's home found multiple devices with concerning content including videos of young boys changing clothes and images of children in their underwear.

"A video of him pulling a student's shorts down, and recording it, it appeared that the recording device was kind of hidden to a certain extent," said Det. Vince Mitre with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with sexual assault, rape, and abuse

Officials with the theater say Houg hadn't been involved with the organization since June when they first were made aware of the allegations.

In a statement they said:

"We are concerned about the wellbeing of our youth and their families and wish for healing for any who have been impacted by this news."

This follows another report of inappropriate behavior on Zoom last month after a San Jose teacher was caught shirtless during a special education class.

WATCH: SJ special education teacher appears shirtless during virtual class, teen who snapped photos speaks out

A San Jose family is sharing a shocking remote learning scene. A teacher at Silver Creek High School logged onto a virtual class while shirtless on Friday.

So, how can you keep your kids safe during these challenging times?

"It's really important to have open conversations with your children starting from when they're really young so that they don't feel as if there's some type of stigma or shame associated with sharing that somebody did or said something that was inappropriate to them," said Santa Clara University Prof. Brett Solomon, Ph.D.

Dr.Solomon is a child studies professor and director of the future teachers' program at Santa Clara University.

"The conversation really needs to be centered around keeping yourself safe and making sure that you communicate to an adult, a trusting adult when something doesn't seem right," said Dr. Solomon.

A reminder that although parents can't be in the virtual classroom they do have the power to arm their kids with the skills they need to recognize inappropriate behavior.

"This case specifically, you know, it hits home for a lot of people because all of us either have kids, or are guardians of kids, or know kids," said Det. Mitre.