Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whatever Happened To Carla

I found this while going through things on my computer. I still have nightmares because of what happened to me, and I think it's going to help me to post this letter, even if no one reads it. It's extremely long, but it's what happened to me.

Dear Mr. Greiger:

I am writing this letter to file my complaints of sexual harassment against Mr. Howard and to expose what he did to me when I was at the high school. When I was still in high school I tried twice to express my concern, but was never taken seriously. Because I wasn’t taken seriously and I was afraid my grades would be affected if I went further, I dropped the issue and took matters into my own hands. Now, almost two years after my graduation I have decided to come forward because I hate thinking other girls are going through what I went through because of Mr. Howard.

I would be willing to talk to anyone about this, but I feel for my own safety I should not be at the high school. I know there are certain identifying details, but I would like to remain anonymous at least for the next two weeks. I am moving, and after the first week of April I would be okay with my name coming out if necessary.

The following is a chronological summary of events – it is not completely inclusive, merely a summary of what I remember:

Freshman year

Fall 2000: I got Mr. Howard for advisement and U.S. History.

I get a strange feeling when I’m around Mr. Howard, so I avoid advisement. I find a club to attend on every club day, and on other days I find excuses not to go to advisement. I never get a pink attendance slip, but Mr. Howard threatens me with a DR if I don’t come to advisement more often.

End of first quarter, fall 2000: My parents and I met with Mr. Howard for my parent/teacher conference. Howard struts in and says I am doing well academically, but should be more athletic. He suggests soccer, and my mother stands up and firmly and loudly says, “Don’t you dare tell me how to raise my daughter. She has cystic fibrosis and physically can’t be athletic. Don’t tell me what my daughter needs.”

Later in the day Mr. Howard comes up to me and says he had no idea about my lung problems. I become nervous because most people don’t know and I say, “Yeah, most people don’t know.”

About one week after the parent/teacher conference, Howard is lecturing during class and randomly brings up cystic fibrosis. He makes a point of looking at me before mentioning CF again and moving on. I panic because no one in my class knows and I don’t want them to find out. Later in the day, a friend who knew about my CF came up to me and said that Howard had talked to her class about me and my CF. I know this happened at least two more times, including once my sophomore year.

Beginning of second semester, January 2001: I don’t go to advisement because I went to a club meeting, and Howard pulls me out of the cafeteria at lunch and walks me down the hall, up the stairs, and to the deserted teachers’ lounge to tell me my class rank. I thought it was strange he didn’t even need to look at the list once we got to the teachers’ lounge. I was eleventh.

February 2001: I need to switch history hours to switch my Spanish class, and when I go to Howard to ask for permission to switch from his 3rd hour to his 4th hour U.S. History class, he stares at me for several seconds before saying, “Sure, anything for you, Carla.”

I took advantage of my opportunity to switch classes and actually skipped class to discuss it with my guidance counselor so I wouldn’t have to go to history.

In my new history class Howard puts me where there is an empty desk next to me and one in front of me. He sits on these desks to lecture and often sits next to me during tests. He also made me the attendance taker in both my new class and in advisement. Even though it made me uncomfortable, I took attendance because I always did what my teachers asked me to do.

One day I went to staple and turn in my test, and Howard was sitting at the front table where we turned in the tests. I stapled my test and went to put it on the pile. He took hold of the other end and wouldn’t let go. He looked me in the eye and said, “When I get married, I want to have a daughter… just… like… you.” I dropped my test and went back to my desk.

March 2001: In my 8th hour geometry class my seating assignment for March is closest to the door. Howard comes in everyday to write Pi=3 on the board just to annoy my geometry teacher, Mrs. Castner. Everyday as he leaves, Howard winks at me. After about a week and ½ Mrs. Castner asks if I would like a different seating assignment, and I said yes. I always viewed my 8th hour geometry class as a safe place away from Mr. Howard, especially after Mrs. Castner changed my seat. Several days later, Mrs. Castner had a family emergency and Mr. Howard volunteered to substitute. I walked into my 8th hour class expecting my safe environment, and find Howard sitting at Mrs. Castner’s desk.

May 2001: Howard assigns a letter writing project in advisement. Some of my friends are against it, and I rolled my eyes at the idea of homework for advisement. During a history quiz, Howard calls me out into the hall. He stands too close – less than a foot away – and corners me against a locker. He breathes on me with his coffee breath for awhile before telling me why I’m out in the hall. He tells me that I am a role model and should influence my friends to go along with his idea.

After that episode, I have my first nightmare. I dreamt that I had gotten Mr. Howard for sophomore history. My nightmares became recurring, always him chasing me or trapping me in his class room. Not until spring of my freshman year in college would my nightmares be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by the trauma of my history teacher.

After my first nightmare, I go to guidance to make sure I didn’t get Howard for sophomore history. I told my counselor how uncomfortable Mr. Howard made me feel, and that I thought some of his actions towards me were inappropriate and I didn’t want to have him as a teacher again. I expressed my complaints to Ms. Coddington, who brushed them off, but told me that my request to not have Howard again as a teacher would be taken seriously. I sat with her as we changed my schedule and I made sure I had a different teacher for both ancient and modern civilizations. When I got my schedule at registration for sophomore year, it had me in Howard’s ancient civilizations class. I was so upset I collapsed on the floor sobbing. I went to guidance to try and fix the mistake, but was told that all the other classes were full.

Sophomore year

First day of school, 2001: I walked into class and Mr. Howard put his arm around me and asked about my parents. I reminded him that my parents didn’t like him, and he asked how my lungs were doing, and started to walk away. He turned and said, “Say hi to your mom and dad.”

My assigned seat was in the back corner with an empty desk directly next to me and directly behind me. Mr. Howard lectured mostly from those desks, and during tests would always sit behind me and breathe on me. Once, he even started flipping through my day planner, which I had placed on the desk behind me so it would be out of my way. I turned around, gave him a funny look, and took my planner back.

From the first day of sophomore year I was Mr. Howard’s designated helper. I took attendance, recorded quiz grades in the grade book, and marked participation points on the seating chart whenever someone spoke. I remember one instance where Howard insisted that I should sit at his desk to record grades in his grade book, but I insisted on recording them at my desk.

One day I came into class and sat at my desk. My good friend Dylan sat caddy-corner in front of me, and we were talking. Howard brought a newspaper over, moved my books from my desk to the desk behind me, and spread the newspaper out on my desk. He put one arm on either side of me and leaned over me to show me which stocks were his and then asked me to record the daily changes. I told him, “I am not your secretary and I’d like my books back.”

At one point during the semester Mr. Howard had changed the posters in the room, and the one that was behind my desk partially fell down. Howard was lecturing, and asked me to fix it because it was distracting him. While standing on my tiptoes the top corner was barely in my reach, but I fixed the poster. The next day the same corner had fallen, and he asked me to fix all the posters in the room. The next day the same corner on the poster behind my desk had fallen, again. For several more days the same corner fell, and each day I was asked to fix it. The last day I fixed it I was standing on tiptoe and not really listening carefully to the lecture, but as I turned around I heard Mr. Howard say, “Marriage and then children, right Carla?” I was in too much shock and confusion to say anything. The next day Howard asked me again to fix the poster and I asked my friend Dylan to fix it. It never fell again.

By my sophomore year I had learned that I could get by with doing very little work in Mr. Howard’s class. Whatever I did I was going to get an A or an A+. There were tests I completely made the essays up, and I got extra credit points. On one he wrote, “Extra points just because you truly make reading your work rewardable.” On one test I wrote about how I didn’t study because I got the day of the test mixed up, and I got full credit and he wrote, “Good thing you are a smart puppy.”

During one unit Mr. Howard showed the class the movie Gladiator, and turned all the lights off to show the movie. The room was completely dark, and he would wander around and then sit behind me. I knew he was there because I could hear and feel him breathing, but I never knew exactly where he was.

I became very frightened not only to go to history class, but also study hall. I took study in the cafeteria until Mr. Howard started regularly coming to talk to Mr. Belfer. He would wave, wink or occasionally say something. I was uncomfortable so I started going to the IMC for study hall. I was content there until Mr. Howard started coming to work in the teachers’ area of the IMC. He would walk by and wink or brush against me. I again was scared so I went to the band room for study hall. I felt comfortable there until one day Mr. Howard came to talk to Mr. O’Keefe. I knew I was being stalked, so I asked Mrs. Ketter if I could spend my study hall in the choir room even though I wasn’t in choir. She agreed, and I finally had a safe place to take my study hall.

End of first quarter, 2001: Mr. Howard gave me an A- for first quarter. I was okay with that because I knew I probably hadn’t done that well in his class. One day I was walking with a couple friends during passing time, and Mr. Howard stopped me outside of room 60. He pulled me aside and said, “I woke up dreaming about you at 3am and decided you deserve an A instead of an A-.” I said okay, ducked around him, and walked away as quickly as I could.

Junior year

I didn’t have Mr. Howard as a teacher junior year, but I ran into him in the hallways almost daily. I changed my morning routine several times to avoid him, but always ended up seeing him. I usually ran the other way if I saw him in a hallway, but there was one instance I couldn’t avoid him.

A classmate and I had forgotten our textbooks, and our teacher sent us to our lockers to get them. My book was in my friend’s locker, and I was standing opening the locker. I did the combination wrong the first time, swore under my breath and started to try again when I felt a knot in my stomach and saw a hand on either side of my head. I knew who had me trapped against the locker. As I started to turn to defend myself Mr. Howard whispered in my ear, “Not having much luck today… with your locker?” I screamed, and my classmate, Peter, turned and said, “What the hell, Carla?” Mr. Howard walked away. Peter offered me a mint and we went back to class.

At the end of my junior year I again returned to guidance to request never to have Howard as a teacher again. Ms. Coddington assured me she would do everything she could, but when I received my schedule senior year I had him both semesters. I went to try and fix this, but again I was stuck. I needed the credit to graduate, and because of the AP classes I was taking the only hour I could fit history in was the hour Mr. Howard taught.

Senior year

First semester senior year I had Mr. Howard for modern civilizations. It is a sophomore class, so my best friend, another friend and I were the only seniors. Since I knew I was stuck I decided I had to be strong and angry so he wouldn’t control me.

First day of school senior year: I bet my friend that my assigned seat would be front and center, and I was correct. Everyone else was in alphabetical order, except me. He stuck me front and center. Since I was next to my best friend I figured I could handle it, and I’m sure that’s what he figured I would do.

The first two weeks of modern civilizations, all we did was watch videos. I rolled my eyes about the fifth day of video watching because I thought he wasn’t teaching. I felt that if we discussed the videos it might be worth watching them, but we just watched them. After he saw me roll my eyes he would say things like, “Although Carla doesn’t thing we should, we’re going to watch a video today.” He even went as far as to ask my permission on every class activity before we started class. It made me angry because all I did was roll my eyes once, so I became belligerent and uncooperative. He then would wink at me to upset me even more.

I stopped bringing my book to class because I didn’t have time to go to my locker between physics and history, and I didn’t have the physical strength to carry all my books. My lungs weren’t doing well because of my cystic fibrosis, and I wasn’t able to carry all my books or run all over the school between classes. Mr. Howard chose this as his new way to antagonize me during class. He would criticize me and point me out to the rest of the class even after I told him why I wasn’t bringing my book to class. To make a point, one day I did go to my locker during passing time to get my book. I came five minutes late to class because I physically couldn’t climb the stairs any faster, and he antagonized me in front of the class for being late. I said, “Well, that’s how long it took me to get my book and carry it up the stairs.”

He continued to harass me about my book and my opinions on class activities until November 25th, 2003, when I snapped. I announced to the class, “Everyone, notice where you’re sitting. Think about alphabetical order, and then think what my last name starts with.” One student said, “Hey, W doesn’t come after B.” Mr. Howard became angry and offered a seat at the side table if I was unhappy with my assigned seat. I said, “A seat right next to your desk? No thanks, I’ll stick right here.”

My best friend at the time was in my class and became friends with him. She skipped class to spend his prep hour with him and would visit him at lunch and after school. This was upsetting enough, but then I learned they would talk about me. I became even more angry.

Right before first semester exams I went to guidance to figure out a way out of his class for second semester, and there was no way. I was stuck. I decided to take control. I had been terrorized long enough by Mr. Howard and I knew I had to take charge. I marched to Mr. Howard’s room and confronted him. It was the only time I went to his room by myself, but I knew what I had to do. I told him I didn’t want him to speak to me, look at me, or come anywhere near me, and I was going to get the grade I wanted or I was going to go to the administration. He had given me an A both quarters in modern civilizations, but after my confrontation with him, I received an A+ on the exam and an A+ for the semester. He also gave me straight A+s for all of second semester.

Second semester was sociology, a class of juniors and seniors. I had another friend in the class who had always complained about things he had done to her. He put this friend front center and me in the back corner with an empty desk behind. My friend and I would point out the out of line comments he made.

February 13th, 2004: My best friend tells me Howard told her he wants me out of his class. I feel it is completely inappropriate for a teacher to talk about a student to another student, and I go to guidance. I tell Ms. Coddington why I want out of his class and that he has been sexually harassing me. She says he’s too nice and I must be misreading things. She doesn’t believe me, and I have no idea what to do, except show Howard I have power. I act mean and powerful and eventually he becomes more cautious with what he says.

Before he actually becomes more aware of what he says, he criticizes me because I don’t think he’s politically correct, and he returns to asking my permission before talking about any subject. One day he was lecturing, and asked my permission to talk about something. I didn’t say anything, and he starts talking. He then turns and winks at me. I became so angry I tightened my grip on my pen, and it broke in half, sending the top half flying towards his head. He never asked my permission again.

After that he would try and talk to me or try to sit behind me and I would either not answer or move. I did everything I could to get him to leave me alone.

Post Graduation

Shortly before I left for college, I was hanging out with the friend who had befriended Mr. Howard, and her phone rang. She didn’t answer it, but I saw on the display that it was him calling.

My freshman year of college his wedding announcement ran in the paper. The date was set for my birthday. I learned later that he chose the date.

My younger brother was in Howard’s modern civilizations class spring 2005, and my former best friend was visiting him often. One day Howard told the class about his first week of teaching at the high school. He said he had two girls in his class, Carla and Emma, and they made teaching difficult and made him very nervous. My brother told me what he told the class, and I let him know it was a lie. Emma didn’t move to Cedarburg until November of that year, and I wasn’t in her class until the end of February when my schedule changed. Even then, she and I weren’t really friends, and we didn’t sit in the front row. It was a total lie.

Spring semester 2005 I was in Madison going to school and recovering from surgeries in November that almost killed me. I was in therapy for PTSD, and one day was walking back from therapy when Mr. Howard drove past and waved at me. The next week I told my therapist I had seen him, and she said that if I ever saw him on campus again I needed to call the police. She asked why I didn’t get a restraining order when I was in high school, and I told her I was afraid going to the administration would make things worse and it could have affected my grades and GPA. I was too scared to say anything, especially after guidance told me I was mistaken.

I am willing to discuss what happened to me, and I hope by finally coming forward I can prevent some other girl from having to go through the same torment I went through.

Thank you for your time.


Carla A.

CHS Class of 2004

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