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RCS sued over ex-teacher’s sexual misconduct, drug crimes involving students

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 30, 2020

 Kathryn Marie Houghtaling sits with her attorney, Zachary R. Glaza, in the 52-3 District Court Jan. 30.

Kathryn Marie Houghtaling sits with her attorney, Zachary R. Glaza, in the 52-3 District Court Jan. 30.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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Rochester Community Schools is facing a civil lawsuit after a former Rochester High School teacher was sentenced on sex and drug charges involving two students.

Kathryn Marie Houghtaling, 27, of Sterling Heights, was sentenced in March to 51 months in prison on six counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second-degree and one count of delivering a controlled substance to a minor. 

The incidents are alleged to have occurred with two Rochester High School students, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018, when Houghtaling was 26.

The family of the then-17-year-old is now suing the Rochester Community Schools District, Houghtaling, district Assistant Superintendent Carrie Lawler, and high school Principal Neil DeLuca. 

The civil suit — filed July 27 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Marko Law — alleges that the district and its administrators did nothing to protect the 17-year-old student, who has a learning disability and attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, from his teacher’s sexual advances and assault, or bullying by other students. The lawsuit includes claims for violation of the 14th Amendment, equal protection rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title IX, and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as creating a sexually hostile educational environment, retaliation and discrimination.

 According to the complaint, the student was 17 in 2018 when Houghtaling would pull him from his other classrooms, flirt with him in the halls, text his cellphone daily and harass him for sex. The complaint alleges Houghtaling also supplied the student with alcohol and drugs and performed oral sex on him while giving him a ride home.

In one reported incident, in December 2018, the school alerted the boy’s parents that he was falling asleep in class, so they took him to the hospital, where a test revealed that he had Xanax in his system, according to the complaint. 

The suit says the relationship between the student and Houghtaling was well known by other students, who began bullying and harassing the student during school. 

Deputies from the Oakland County Sheriff's Office said a district parent who found a video of a group of students partying with Houghtaling had planned to bring the information forward to school administrators, but a student who was involved decided to alert administrators Jan. 8, 2019. District officials said they immediately reported the allegations to the deputies, who responded to the school to interview Houghtaling. During the interview, deputies said, Houghtaling admitted to detectives that she had had sexual contact with a 16-year-old student and a 17-year-old student, and she was immediately terminated by the school district.

Attorney Jonathan Marko, who represents the family with lawyer Kirstina Magyari, said any school district has a duty and obligation to look out for the welfare and wellbeing of its students.

“Not only did Rochester Community School District breach its duty when it failed to protect our client from sexual assault, abuse and harassment by its employee, but it also failed to act or protect him from the incessant bullying and humiliation that he experienced daily as a result,” Marko said in a statement. 

Houghtaling’s attorney, Zachary Glaza, did  not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I want to apologize to all the parties involved, specifically to my students. I know that my actions betrayed the duty and responsibility I had to them as a teacher," Houghtaling said at her sentencing in March.

Rochester Community Schools did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Call Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at (586) 498-1060.

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