Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A California jury has ruled in favor of a teacher whom students called a "perv" and "creeper" and found the children and their parents financially liable for defamation to the tune of $362,653 in compensatory damages
In addition to those unflattering names, the schoolgirls said that former Catholic school physical education teacher John Fischler, 49, inappropriately touched kids and peeked into their restroom.
The case began in 2011 when administrators at Holy Spirit school in Almaden Valley were informed that Fischler had inappropriately touched students and spied in the bathroom. He was later cleared of those charges by police and school officials.
After returning to a work environment he called “poisonous,” Fischler filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $1 million in damages.
As part of the verdict handed down on Friday, the Santa Clara County Superior Court panel also found that one of the girls acted with malice and is also liable for punitive damages.
Fischler's lawyer, Robert Vantress, argued that the families and the children didn’t only discuss the concerns they had about his client in order to promote safety, they basically gossiped about the situation.
"I'm grateful the jury was able to see through the smoke screen and the truth came out." Fischler said. "There's always going to be a scar. But the jury saw through the deception."
The families and their attorneys cautioned that this sort of ruling could have a big effect on the reporting of school abuse.
"If this trial prevents one little girl or one mother or father from reporting suspected abuse," lawyer Lee J. Danforth said Friday, "then this is profoundly sad for our society."
[San Jose Mercury News]