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Posted on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Jury trial in Eberwhite sexual assault lawsuit expected in late spring

By Kyle Feldscher

A jury trial is expected in May or June in the lawsuit alleging an Eberwhite Elementary School student was sexually assaulted twice and officials failed to protect her.


A jury trial is expected in late spring in the lawsuit alleging an Eberwhite Elementary School student was sexually assaulted by classmates twice in the 2010-11 school year.

Chris Asadian | AnnArborcom

According to court documents filed in the United State District Court Eastern District of Michigan earlier this month, a jury trial will come in May or June of this year. All discovery in the case must be filed by March 1 and the final pretrial hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 21.

The lawsuit alleges the then-7-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and bullied in October 2010 and March 2011. The girl and the boys who allegedly bullied and assaulted her were all special education students in the same class.

According to court documents, the girl went to the bathroom on March 22, 2011 and a classmate somehow got into the restroom with her. The boy allegedly pulled her off the toilet, kissed her, undressed himself and the girl and attempted to engage in oral sex.

There were four adults assigned to the special education classroom at the time of the alleged assault, but only one student teacher was present. The student teacher noticed the two students were missing, eventually telling them to come out of the bathroom.

Documents showed the boy came out first, pulling up his pants and fastening his belt while the girl remained seated on the toilet. The students were taken to the office and the regular teacher was called in from a meeting to talk to them.

After speaking with the students, the teacher called interim principal Judy Copes and left a voicemail. The next day, Copes met with the girl’s mother and told her about the incident. According to the lawsuit, the mother took her daughter to the hospital and hospital personnel notified police of the alleged assault.

The girl told police the boy and another boy bulled her during the school year. She said they sexually assaulted her and another girl while they changed into their Halloween costumes earlier in the school year. The same boy attempted to engage the girl in oral sex, while the other boy attempted to take the other girl’s clothes off, according to court document.

The lawsuit alleges the students’ teacher did not ask questions about why the boys were in the bathroom with the girls. Its also alleged Copes asked the girl's mother not to tell police about the assault.

Due to the boys’ special education status, they received a two-day suspension from Eberwhite, documents stated.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the American Disability Act, the Persons with Disability Civil Rights Act, section 504 of the Rehabilitative Act, the 14th Amendment and Title IX. The girl’s family is seeking $75,000, in addition to costs and attorney fees.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 11:32 p.m.

Student Behavior and Human Nature: I would like to understand this issue with feelings, and thoughts of sympathy for all the students involved in this incident. I have no reason to believe that the student/s have demonstrated a true intent to sexually assault a fellow student. The story may have used some graphic language, and yet I doubt if the kids have used any reasoning power to decide on the actions in which they were involved. I am very hopeful that the members of jury will reject this demand for conviction on charges as reported here. I would desire to keep up the beautiful traditions and the legacy of this School Building which gives us a sense of pride in our community. To that extent, I express my firm support to the staff at Eberwhite. Don't feel discouraged. Truth will prevail.

Peter Eckstein

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Forgive me if I am asking a politically incorrect question, but what lesson does the school teach with a two-day suspension?


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

We had an issue with a boy at our school and were told there are restrictions on punishment for kids with IEP. Basically, they have a right to an education and keeping them out of school denies them that right. Doesn't make sense to me when they are denying others around them an education, but that is what I was told. Somehow it is some sort of law because of the IEP.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

I just wanted to jump in here quick. Semperfi, I'm not sure how charter schools policies would compare for handling sexual assaults. But here's a story that looks a little closer at what AAPS' policies say:


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

Thanks for the additional info. Strange that there is still so much gray area in reporting these cases at the state level. I asked about charters because there seems to be a real lack of any special ed students at the charters that will talk about it. I wonder if their reporting methods stand the litmus test. Clearly AAPS has strident rules in place for this and they admit all students.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

I wonder how these issues are handled in charter schools. Do charter schools accept special education students?


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Whether or not charter schools *accept* special education students, they teach fewer of them.

Cole Bertsos

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

After asking around a bit, i'm told special education students definitely are accepted at charter schools— though I'm not positive on their policies in cases such as these.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

There are multiple adults in classrooms serving students with special needs for very important reasons, including ensuring that all students are accounted for and treating each other appropriately--also including handling emergency situations when they come up suddenly and unexpectedly. Whatever the additional facts in this case, that there was only one *uncertified* teacher in the classroom at the time of the incident--and for some unspecified length of time prior to the incident--seems inappropriate. Although student teachers do need experience handling classrooms as the lead teacher, it is unclear that they need experience teaching under conditions that are not safe for students. That there was not a principal or acting principal in the building or an administrator "on-call" to address the situation immediately also seems inappropriate. That the child's mother was not informed until the following day seems beyond imagining. That an alleged sexual assault in a special education classroom would be treated with apparently a considerably more cavalier attitude than an alleged sexual assault in a regular classroom seems unconscionable. That Ann Arbor Public Schools apparently have not yet figured out how to establish for all staff and students a very bright line regarding the very damaging effects of bullying/abuse of all kinds--and a strict, clearly specified, well-publicized, uniformly enforced, no-tolerance policy toward such behavior--seems very sad indeed. Whatever the facts regarding what occurred among the students in this particular situation, it should be clear to all staff and students that such questions should never have to come up. When mistakes are made, and such questions do come up, those questions need to be addressed appropriately and immediately. Otherwise, parents cannot believe that their children are safe in our schools.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

That poor girl. I can only imagine how terrifying these repeated ordeals were. She should have been protected so much better.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

Sad to hear, especially as an alum.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 11:33 a.m.

Ok, the regular teacher was in a meeting, the substitute was in the classroom, and the other two adult supervisors who were being paid to watch these kids was......where???


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

It's likely that they were accompanying other students to the classes they were being mainstreamed in. It is rare in a class like this for all the students to be in the same place at one time.