UNION CITY (AP) — An elementary school teacher in Northern California has been formally charged with dozens of counts of inappropriately touching several of his students.
Michael William Howey, 47, of Alameda, did not enter a plea during his arraignment Monday in an Alameda County courtroom on 17 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and 23 counts of annoying and molesting a child.
Howey, a third-grade teacher at Alvarado Elementary School in Union City, remains in the Santa Rita Jail on $750,000 bail following his arrest earlier this month.
According to a police affidavit, detectives began investigating Howey in April after another teacher at the elementary school reported seeing him hugging and kissing a girl on the cheek in his classroom.
Other students told police that Howey kissed several female students on the lips, nose, forehead and neck during recess. He would also call the students cute and stylish and would give compliments on their hair and clothing, court records show.
Students also said Howey put his hands under their clothing or touched their buttocks as they sat face forward on his lap, the affidavit shows. Many said they were afraid to tell their parents because they didn't want to make them mad, according to the affidavit.
One student told police that Howey, who has worked in the district for 14 years, apparently had a "cutiest girl list and a goodiest girl list."
Court records show that during one police interview, a student cried when she said her teacher kissed her lips and forehead and that "she felt like it happened every day." She told officers that sometime after spring break, her teacher pulled her aside, praised her for a good test score and then kissed her lips during recess.
The girl said she ran outside to get away.
"It's very apparent Howey provided extracurricular activities for (students) to work on during recess, especially arts and crafts that are appealing to female students only," Union City Police Det. Jean Luevano wrote in the affidavit. "This isolated the girls from view and made his hugs and kisses 'normal' to the other students who witnessed it as Howey often acted as if it was a reward for their efforts."
Court records show that Howey initially refused to speak to police after his arrest but eventually talked with a detective. Howey said that during recess he comforted one student with a hug after she did not do well on a test.
"Howey denied ever giving her a kiss and said he wasn't sure if there was a policy or procedure that prohibited teachers from doing that," the affidavit said.
When the detective told Howey the investigation involved more than one student, he hung his head, cried and "admitted he had made some mistakes" then asked for his lawyer, the affidavit continued.
Howey, who had no prior criminal history and is on paid administrative leave from his job, is due back in court on June 5.