John Fischler, a physical education teacher at Holy Spirit Catholic school, was initially suspended with pay after three students made what police would eventually determine were false claims of sexual misconduct against Fischler over the course of two years, The San Jose Mercury News reported Sunday. He later left the school of his own accord.
One girl, age 11, said Fischler touched her buttocks in 2009 while instructing her to perform a squat thrust. Fischler denied having touched the girl's behind but admitted to touching her hips. He was disciplined by school administrators for violating their no-touching policy.
In 2010, a group of girls including a sibling of the girl from the 2009 incident said Fischler inappropriately barged into a girl's bathroom where several of them were changing and leered at them in various states of undress.
A police investigation into the allegations ultimately sided with Fischler, who said he knocked on the door to the restroom, which also served as a locker room for female students, and was forced to enter because the sound of shrieking was disrupting a class down the hall. Police later found that the girls who made the allegations coerced the other girls into lying to administrators about Fischler's conduct in an attempt to get him fired.
Though police ultimately cleared Fischler of wrongdoing, his name was listed for months on a state database available to law enforcement and other agencies seeking to screen employees who have contact with children. His lawsuit alleges the girls' actions and that of their parents -- who knew or should have known their children were lying -- destroyed his reputation and his career as a teacher.
He said the girls and their families were in a "malicious craze" to get him fired from his job.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory damages from the three families, the Mercury News said.
The families being sued have responded, standing by their initial allegations, calling Fischler a "crude, rude, socially inappropriate teacher."
Legal experts have questioned the potential unintended consequences of an adult suing children who say they're victims of abuse -- arguing it could have a chilling effect on legitimate abuse victims, many of whom never report the crimes out of fear of repercussions.