Plymouth-Canton Schools Sued Over Middle School Sex Assault
PLYMOUTH (WWJ) – A Wayne County school district is being hauled into court over the alleged repeated sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl with Down syndrome.
WWJ’s Pat Sweeting reports the girl’s mother filed the lawsuit in a Wayne County Circuit Court this week against the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools and school employees who allegedly allowed her daughter to be sexually assaulted by another student during the school day at Discovery Middle School in Plymouth.
Plymouth-Canton Community Schools said as of noon Nov. 9, they have not been formally served with a lawsuit. A statement released by the school said they are aware of the situation, and have contacted their legal counsel. The statement also said it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
WWJ is not naming the victim or suspect in the case to protect the identities of minors.
According to the lawsuit, the victim is cognitively impaired with communication problems. The girl’s mother, Angela, said her daughter cannot bathe herself, brush her teeth or ever be left alone.
The girl was in eighth grade at Discovery Middle School and attended classes in a district special education classroom with other students who have cognitive impairments. By law, the students are to be supervised and taught at all times by at least one teacher with a special education teaching endorsement.
The complaint alleges on March 29, a teacher allowed the students in her special education program to leave the classroom unsupervised and gather their belongings from their lockers in the hallway.
When the teacher went to check on the students in the hallway, she reportedly noticed that Angela’s daughter and a male classmate were missing. After walking down the hall and around the corner, it is alleged that the teacher found the girl pushed up against the wall by her classmate, who was seen leaning against her. The girl’s hands were reportedly inside the boy’s pants.
“The teacher allowed all of these cognitively impaired students to go and roam the hallways and when they came out… the assailant had taken the daughter’s hand and placed it on his genitals. And this is the position they were found,” said Royal Oak attorney Michael Dorfman, who is representing Angela.
The lawsuit says the girl was suspended for two days after the incident and the boy was suspended for a month.
According to the complaint, the boy was questioned in greater detail on March 31 upon the request of the school’s assistant principal. It was under this questioning that the boy allegedly admitted that he had previously sexually assaulted the girl on multiple occasions.
The boy allegedly admitted that he fondled the girl and on at least two separate occasions, he took the girl’s hand and placed it on his penis, adding that the only reason he stopped was because another student said it was “nasty.”
The complaint says the most shocking admission came later in the meeting after the boy was asked if the girl had ever seen his naked penis.
The boy reportedly told the assistant principal and his teacher that one day after gym class, he grabbed the girl by the hand and led her into the Multi-Purpose Room, which was left unlocked. The lawsuit alleges that the boy exposed himself to the girl through his open zipper, pulled down the girl’s pants and put his penis “in her butt.” At that time, the teacher left the interview because she became teary-eyed.
The girl was crying during the rape and asked the boy to stop but did not inform anyone because the boy said “he was going to kill her,” according to the complaint.
After that interview, school officials reportedly questioned other students who may have witnessed the assaults. One student, whose name was redacted from the report, said the boy often tickled the girl’s waist and hugged her, adding that the boy told him that “he is going to get some booty,” according to the complaint.
A police report was filed and the boy was suspended. He returned to school several weeks later and a one-to-one paraprofessional was assigned to him. A one-to-one paraprofessional was also assigned to the girl after the assaults.
The lawsuit also alleges that after the incidents came to light, the girl’s parents learned that the boy had been transferred from another school within the district because of inappropriate and assaultive sexual behavior with other students at his previous school.
Dorfman said the attacks have left the girl very upset.
“She was extremely upset. She was taken to the University of Michigan hospital where they performed an entire rape case. Because she has Down syndrome, she doesn’t know how to react and she thinks she’s in trouble. This has caused her numerous, numerous setbacks and she’s needed a ton of psychiatric help and neurological help as a result,” said Dorfman.
The lawsuit names Plymouth-Canton Community Schools and Discovery School employees: Joslyn Clark (Supervisor of Special Education), Julie Woodhams (Director of Special Education), Amy Carns (Special Education Teacher), Roche LaVictor (Principal) and Terry Sawchuck(Assistant Principal) as defendants. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
According to the Wayne County Prosecutors Office, the 15-year-old boy was charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree and Assault and Battery in September. The Prosecutors office said he will be tried as a juvenile; adult penalties will not apply.
A pre-trial hearing date was set before Judge Mark Slavens on Nov. 28. The boy is currently on bond.