Former San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District teacher Michael Henderson
(Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office)
K-12 Education

Former SLV High teacher headed to trial on child molestation charges

Former San Lorenzo Valley High teacher Michael Henderson is heading to trial on charges stemming back to 2019 that he molested a girl he tutored through a private after-school program.

Henderson appeared in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on Wednesday, capping a preliminary hearing that spanned multiple days this week. He is accused of four felony counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14.

This case proceeds as four San Lorenzo Unified School District teachers and staff members are facing misconduct allegations in recent weeks, with two SLV High teachers being put on paid leave as investigations continue.

Prosecutors allege that Henderson was tutoring the girl in a private, off-campus after-school program when he inappropriately touched her multiple times over the course of the 2016-17 school year. Henderson pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Following testimony from a former lead detective in the case and from an inspector for the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, Judge Hector Ramon ruled Wednesday that prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to a jury trial.

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“The people are satisfied that the defendant was held to answer at the preliminary hearing and that probable cause was shown,” Deputy District Attorney Kristal Salcido said after the hearing. “Ultimately, the people are satisfied that they can meet their burden at jury trial beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Henderson’s attorney, George Gigarjian, said after the hearing Wednesday that Henderson maintains his innocence. “We think we showed some compelling reasons why Mr. Henderson is innocent,” Gigarjian said.

Henderson was hired to teach computer resources at San Lorenzo Valley High in 2016, according to district records. He was fired in June 2020, months after his arrest.

An arraignment in the case is set for June 9.

SLV misconduct coverage

Contributing: Lookout correspondent Nick Ibarra