Lawsuit: 8-year-old sexually assaulted twice by classmate at Ann Arbor's Eberwhite Elementary School
Note: The story has been corrected to reflect the proper name of the interim principal at Eberwhite.
An 8-year-old girl reported a boy sexually assaulted her twice in the bathroom of their special education classroom at Ann Arbor’s Eberwhite Elementary School in March 2011, and now her family is suing the district.
Chris Asadian | AnnArborcom
The lawsuit, filed last week in United States District Court, accuses the district of violating several of the girl’s rights by failing to protect her from bullying and two sexual assaults.
Nicholas Roumel, the attorney representing the girl and her mother, said Monday the lawsuit stems from the mother's belief that the attacks represent a failure to act on the part of the district.
"The allegations made by the child's mother are very serious and, if true, indicate an unacceptable lack of accountability on the part of the district," Roumel said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges the second-grader was sexually assaulted in October 2010 and March 2011, with both incidents coming to light after the second assault.
AnnArbor.com is not naming the girl because she is the victim of a sex crime. The names of the boys involved in the incident are being withheld because they are juveniles.
According to court documents, the 8-year-old girl went to the bathroom on March 22 when a classmate somehow got into the bathroom with her. The lawsuit alleges the boy pulled her off the toilet and kissed her before undressing himself and the girl and attempting to engage in oral sex.
The boy was one of two special education students who had continually bullied the girl during the school year, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states there were four adults assigned to the classroom— one substitute teacher, one student teacher and two teacher assistants. The substitute and two assistants were out of the classroom at the time of the incident, according to the lawsuit.
The student teacher noticed the boy and girl were missing from the classroom and called out their names, the lawsuit states. When they did not respond, the student teacher told them to come out of the bathroom, according to the lawsuit.
"(The boy) pulled his pants back up. (The girl) was still on the toilet. (The boy) came out first and was fastening his belt. (The girl) came out pulling up her pants," the lawsuit states. "(The student teacher) took them to the office and (the girl) started to cry."
When the students were in the office, the regular teacher was pulled out of a meeting in order to interview the students, according to the lawsuit.
After the girl told the teacher what happened, the teacher said she would call the girl’s mother, but instead called the school’s interim principal, Judy Copes, and left a voicemail when she couldn't reach her, the lawsuit states.
It wasn’t until the next day, March 23, that the interim principal received the message and asked the girl’s mother to come to the school, the lawsuit states.
The girl’s mother was told about the incident and the interim principal urged her not to call police, the lawsuit states.
The girl’s mother took her child to the hospital, where hospital personnel alerted police to the incident, the lawsuit states. Police interviewed the girl, when she stated she had also been assaulted by the same boy in the same bathroom in October, according to court documents.
The girl told police that the two boys who had bullied her during the school year went into the bathroom when she and another girl were changing into their costumes for Halloween, the lawsuit states. The same boy who assaulted the girl in March attempted to engage her in oral sex and the other boy attempted to remove the other girl’s clothes, according to the lawsuit.
"During the October assault, (the teacher) had noticed there were boys in the bathroom and told them to get out," the lawsuit states. "She did not inquire about what had happened in the bathroom even though the two boys and two girls came out together."
Following the March 2011 assault, the boy who had bullied the girl but was not present in the bathroom during the March 2011 incident began telling other students that the girl and the boy had been “humping” during the sexual assault, the lawsuit states.
Eberwhite staff interviewed the two boys and learned the boy who had been telling other students about the assault had told the boy and girl to go into the bathroom together in the March 2011 incident, according to the lawsuit.
The boys were both suspended from Eberwhite for two days, due to their special education status, the lawsuit states.
Copes and Debi Wagner, Eberwhite's principal before Copes' arrival, were both aware of the boys' bullying of the girl from incidents earlier in the year, according to the lawsuit.
The girl’s mother attempted to get a transfer for the girl to another elementary school in the district, but the district opposed it, the lawsuit states. It took two mediation sessions with the Student Advocacy Center before the girl was allowed to leave Eberwhite, according to the lawsuit.
"The district repeatedly refused to transfer (the girl)," the lawsuit states. "... Finally, after two mediation sessions, they agreed to the transfer."
The girl was out of school for five weeks following the March 2011 sexual assault and is still receiving therapy, the lawsuit states.
“Defendant AAPS discriminated against (the student) because of their failure to protect her from bullying and two sexual assaults,” the lawsuit states, ”which significantly interfered with her ability to fully utilize the defendants educational services.”
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, costs and attorney fees, as well as any other relief permitted under the law, according to court documents.
The lawsuit states the girl suffers from a range of emotional distress, along with physical manifestations such as fear of going to the bathroom by herself and anxiety about sleeping on her own, the lawsuit states.
Ann Arbor schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the school district has not seen the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation.
Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter.
Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.
This story has 122 comments yet it is not listed as a "most commented" story despite having more than the bottom three. I guess "sweeping things under the carpet" is very popular in Ann Arbor! Typical, AAPS story getting buried.
Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.
It was almost prophetic. We pulled our child out of Eberwhite just a few weeks back because we had safety concerns. A student from his class had left the school in the middle of the day, walked home and no one knew for hours! Worse was that we only heard about the incident from other parents...the administrations doesn't do a good job of responding and handling issues. However, that was only the icing on the cake. Prior to that, we were able to walk into the school, get our kid and no one questioned us. That's crazy. We have love the AAPS system and we hope they get their act together...we have 2 more kids to raise here.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.
The Protection of Children: It is indeed unfortunate to read about this incident at Eberwhite. It is sad to read that the School District is being blamed and is facing a law suit. I take pride in our Schools and Institutions and Eberwhite is a matter of great pride to our Community. It is not an easy task to provide Special Education. We want the School District and its staff to control children's behavior while we at our homes do not bother to monitor the activities of children. This story clearly reveals that children are getting exposed to obscene sexual acts and have learned obscene sexual slang words while they are at their homes. The School has not provided them the kind of information or knowledge they would use in expressing their behavior in the School bathrooms. I would not place this undue burden upon School District and its employees. Children must learn their behavior at homes and Schools can only provide an opportunity to learn skills and information to play a meaningful role in the society they will live.
Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.
I agree that you can't hold the district completely responsible, but they absolutely have faults and are too relaxed. We need to do a much better job protecting our kids. I think the parents of the abusers should be prosecuted as criminals, not the kids.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.
I have changed the story from "disrobing him and the girl" to "undressing himself and the girl." Hopefully, this makes the incident more clear.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.
It is my understanding that unless a student teacher has gone through the step of getting approved through the Washtenaw Intermediate School District as a substitute teacher, he or she is not supposed to be left alone with the kids. And that is with a standard classroom, not a room full of high-needs kids. I would imagine that the requirements for a special ed classroom are even stiffer. In any case, it sounds possible that this student teacher was not sub credentialed and was left alone with the kids, despite their having been 4 adults dedicated to the room. One wonders, what kind of a meeting was so important for that sub to be in that he or she left the student teacher to manage the bulk of the class alone? Could it not have taken place after hours? You simply cannot let a student teacher, who is likely very young and often frazzled, handle this many high-needs kids alone. It would appear that the school has legal exposure.
david st. crystal
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.
Your understanding is correct. The student teacher exists only in the context of an unpaid trainee, fully supervised by the head teacher. Obviously the student teacher would be responsible if she had gotten her sub credentials, although this would be unusual- -usually 3 months or more of student teaching is required before sub eligibility, and even then there's a multi-week process before sub work begins. Also, while I realize a2 news has made errors before, the story states that there were 4 adults total, including a proper sub. The sub's responsibility trumps that of the teaching assistants, who often have no teaching degree. While the assistants displayed poor judgement--having known the daily routine and disappearing in tandem, with the sub--it all comes back to the teacher in charge at the time, who was the sub. Anyhow, I guess the lawsuit is much broader, and I don't know how much this particular incident will play into it.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.
This really speaks to the quality, or rather the lack of it, in the teacher pool that furbishes the public schools. Where was/is the most basic, daily classroom attention, observation and oversite during school hours ???
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.
My bad on the link. The actual link is: <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Guide_for_Reporting_Suspected_Child_Abuse_and_Neglect_183198_7.pdf" rel='nofollow'>http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Guide_for_Reporting_Suspected_Child_Abuse_and_Neglect_183198_7.pdf</a>
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.
The thing that does not seem to have occurred here is appropriate notification of suspected or known abuse. This is a legal requirement for school teachers and administrators. See the linked PDF below: <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Guide_for_Reporting_Suspected_Child_Abuse_and_Neglect_183198_7.pdf&ei=-TAxT-iHC43gsQKwktmEBw&usg=AFQjCNGZdb17lHLXXUsaI6dTwjJkiR0-yw" rel='nofollow'>http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Guide_for_Reporting_Suspected_Child_Abuse_and_Neglect_183198_7.pdf&ei=-TAxT-iHC43gsQKwktmEBw&usg=AFQjCNGZdb17lHLXXUsaI6dTwjJkiR0-yw</a> If you are a teacher or school administrator (such as, oh... a Principal?!) "Michigan law requires that you must file a report when you have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect." "Upon suspecting child abuse/neglect, you must both report to DHS and to the person in charge of the school." The document speaks for itself. I would recommend any educators reading this posting download that PDF and familiarize themselves completely with the requirements. Otherwise, "If you fail to file a report of suspected abuse or neglect, you will be subject to both civil and criminal liability. In a civil action you may be held liable for all damages that any person suffers due to your failure to file a report. In a criminal action, you may be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 93 days and a fine of $500. "Notifying your supervisor or other agency administrator DOES NOT satisfy your legal obligation to file a report with DHS." (NOTE: This is ONLY Michigan law. It does not apply to other states which may or may not have their own legislation for such circumstances. Educate yourself. Knowledge is power.)
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.
Cut-backs in the number of aides for special needs kids has led to this and other unfortunate situations in the district. How will any money have been saved, on aides, when this lawsuit has to be paid and pain has been inflicted on 3 students? (In this case alone). I also know that a substitute teacher must be in the classroom, when there is a student teacher. It is a requirement of state law. I fear even more problems will occur, unless the number of aides to these children is provided.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.
Sadly, headlines like this are becoming all too common. Student(s) assaulted, administrator informed, administrator fails to contact police. I wonder what the mindset is of the administrator who tries to sweep incidents like this under the rug. Whatever happened to the concept that educational institutions should be about the welfare of the student first?
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.
What I find disturbing is that according to the article, the girl had been continually bullied by one of the boys. "The boy was one of two special education students who had continually bullied the girl during the school year, according to the lawsuit." This to me speaks of negligence and total disregard for the entire special needs kids in the program. Remember, a society is judged by how it treats it's most vulnerable. We are all to blame, especially the school board! Shame!
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.
What's going on in these boys homes to make them even think of such a thing?
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.
AMOC your right that that the info may have not come from home ,but somebody somewhere had to shown these boys something they shouldn't have. We all must be careful about who is influencing our children.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.
The information on what oral sex involves, what "humping" looks like, and how to bully/victimize a younger, less-articulate child need not have come from the male students' homes. It's just as likely that they learned this during recess or changing for gym class at school or from older boys in their neighborhood. But once any bullying behavior had been reported, the school staff should have been far more alert and supervised the boys much more closely in order to protect the other students. AAPS in general and Eberwhite in particular have a history of trying to minimize, cover up or ignore problems of this sort, especially when they involve bullying of special education or "quirky" kids.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.
KeepingItReal, while I agree with you for the most part, it would be a shame if something improper/abusive was going on somewhere in these boys' lives and nothing was done because it was just chalked up to tv and media. However, I am in no way saying that anything IS going on.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.
Tim, It's not always what's going on in their homes that influence their behavior. Look at how open our society is about sexual matters. Kids are influenced a great deal by TV and the media and they can learn these things on their own.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:58 a.m.
Isn't this clearly a golden opportunity to: - Analyze this behavior issue in the context of the school climate information? - Review the use of peer mediation and conflict resolution programs and consider a broader scale? - Develop clear and consistent rules for the classroom and school by using positive expectations? Lets empower the children and their friends to look for positive behavior and celebrate the good things they do daily! (Somehow, I'm not all that confident that "positive behavior" could even be identified by some of these perps.) Please, don't be so quick to suspend these unfortunate students. Suspension is an admission of failure to empower and influence their positive behavior. Sacrifices need to be made to save these violent and disruptive unfortunates. Our children are a small sacrifice to offer for their deliverance. What's wrong with this picture?
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 10:55 a.m.
Since these incidents occurred in October and March, and the flag reflects daily behavior, they DO get a flag. Flags for everyone, so long as we keep a lid on what is really going on.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:14 a.m.
Is this in reference to the "discipline gap" and the districts "solutions"? If so, then might i add, no good behavior flag for them!
david st. crystal
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:13 a.m.
It'd be nice to see something positive come from this, rather another empty and scandalous battle that has nothing to do with the students.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:08 a.m.
Will the grammar police here just give it a REST?? A little girl was sexually assaulted for God's sakes...Show some sympathy for her and her family before kicking the writer. I am glad that this story has come to light. It seems like the same type of people who Eberwhite also run the of M Hospital...they don't give damn about children! I will pray for the little girl and her family and hope that the boys who did this will get some counseling.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.
I agree with you lovaduck. roadsidedinerlover - The reason the grammar is important here is because it communicates what happened. Unlike some though, I was impressed with how well this confusing chain of events was explained. The part about the boy disrobing "him" was incorrect and awkward, but I think other than that it was clearly written.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.
Oops, I meant "confusion". Here I should heed my own advice! LOL
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.
I'm sorry but what you don't see is that misleading grammar messes up the meaning of a significant story. No one's picking on Kyle except to show that his messed up sentence structure when trying to describe a very SERIOUS case is causing confusing. Form and content cannot always be separated.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 7:05 a.m.
Two wrongs don't make a right.
david st. crystal
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:19 a.m.
You've got a lot of nerve talking like that about Eberwhite staff. It's a great community, there are teachers who have devoted their lives to educating children there, 99% of whom had absolutely nothing to do with this incident. If you're going to condemn with such a wide brush, make sure you have facts to back it up.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:12 a.m.
I wish I could vote on this 1,000 times.
david st. crystal
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.
A lot of variables that could complicate things here. The teacher wasn't there, and she is the person typically responsible and accountable for student safety. The student teacher has no responsibility, while the sub does but probably wasn't familiar with the dynamics. It's inexcusable that 1) the sub was out of the room, and 2) the teacher assistants either accompanied her out or vice versa. Being special, these kids will go haywire when there's even a hint of disruption in structure. Even if the student teacher heard the students beating each other to a pulp in the bathroom, her only appropriate move would be to call for help from a teacher or the office. She's not an employee, and attempting to break things up in there could get her in serious trouble. The head teacher really screwed up by not informing the child's mother. If I was the parent, and I found out the head teacher knew but just casually called the interim principal, I'd be furious.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.
A self contained special education classroom with 4 adults assigned - this should tell everyone how tough a room of children it was to begin with. 4 adults and 3 were out of the room, leaving only a student teacher? The principal has a lot of explaining to do on this one. The board has known or should have know about this since March, but I have not seen any items on the board agenda addressing this kind of an issue or any hint of an internal investigation. Maybe the board took notes from the UofM Hospital administration? This one is going to cost big money, and the district has limited insurance. I hope they do the right thing and settle this before a jury gets it. Then I hope they deal with (fire) the district employees who knew, new policies are in order, including being open with the public about issues in the district.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:14 a.m.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.
Incredible: is this the tip of the iceberg? The great majority of teachers and principles are dedicated people who do huge amounts of work just to "teach." Then along come a few (allegedly) bad apples in that group of educators to damage what so many spend so much of their lives to accomplish - for children and the future of our country. I'm sure everyone notices there's a common thread in all of these child abuse cases: failure of those in charge to immediately and properly report evidence and testimony of child abuse. We have national campaigns to eradicate a number of problems (cancer, disasters, etc.). I think it's past time we created a Protect Our Children campaign on the same scale as those other well known and well funded programs.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.
Wouldn't the teacher be aware of whether or not the parents had been contacted. Honestly if I was the teacher I would have made sure of it. It seems that the teacher was not taking the situation seriously enough by telling administration and leaving it up to them instead of following up and making sure the parents were contacted ASAP.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.
Is it AAPS policy for teachers to not have any contact with parents about their children? That only administration is allowed to have contact with the parent? If so, I'll be sure to call administration next time I have a question about what snack to pack, a homework question, etc... For the record, I am not blaming the teacher, as there is not enough information to know exactly what happened, but it appears there was a communication problem at the very least.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:45 a.m.
What did the teacher do wrong here? Reporting the incident to the administrator was appropriate.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.
What kind of grammar is "disrobing him and the girl". I " disrobe" myself, YOU " undress" (That was a grammatical distinction, not a suggestion. LOL) I think you meant to say that he took off his clothes, and then got or forced her to "undress". I know this is a serious topic, but the word usage is a problem and makes the passage unclear.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.
As an Eberwhite parent I am very disspointed in the events that transpired last year. This por girl was a victim and the Ann Arbor Public Schools should be held accountable. I will add that the new principal, Bill Harris, is very committed to creating a safe environment for the kids. He has a background in special education and is fully aware of the severity of the event that occurred before he took over at Eberwhite. It is my belief, that his hands-on approach (which differs significantly from the prior principal) we will avoid anything like this from happeneing again, and create a safe and nurturing environemnt for our children.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.
Ann Arbor schools are just a huge mess. I'm glad my kids didn't have to endure that mess.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.
I'm thinking the reporting could have been more careful for such a disturbing story. For example, what does this sentence mean: "The lawsuit alleges the boy pulled her off the toilet and kissed her before disrobing him and the girl and attempting to engage in oral sex"? Also, the name of the interim principal is incorrect. I think comment should be held back until we get more of the story.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.
Who disrobed him?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.
What is there not to understand about that sentence? It is what the boy is accused of doing.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.
"The girl's mother was told about the incident and the interim principal urged her not to call police" This statement is all too familiar. I remember a circumstance when I was in school when there was an investigation of a teacher and they took a number of the students (including myself) into a room, fed us pizza, and asked us not to talk to police about what we may have seen. I do not understand why schools want to allow these things to happen and think they can take care of it themselves. The proper thing for the school to do would have been to immediately contact all of the parents and not say anything about whether or not to call the police. I think that should be left up to the parents and the students and the schools should never encourage one way or another in these circumstances. Also, like many others, I'm left wondering what these boys have been exposed to and why. The article doesn't specify their age which would be nice to know. I do realize though that it would be easy for them to be exposed to such things on TV and the internet, but it still makes me question the parents/guardians because it seems that, if nothing else, they are not being properly supervised when watching TV or using the internet. If it becomes clear that a child has been exposed to such things it is important to properly educate them about what they've seen or heard so that they understand what is ok and what is not. This entire situation highlights some major problems in our schools. Lack of proper supervision, lack of parental involvement and education at home, teachers/administrators being too concerned about their reputation and not concerned enough about their students.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.
Let me add DHS to the list above for giving non-existent or inappropriate responses, also.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.
Without making excuses for anybody - because I definitely think this is serious and deserves serious, intensive action, including like you stated above, education of the boys on appropriate behavior - but I think that it may be because people know how inconsistent, and sometimes downright inappropriate, a police response can sometimes be that they shy away from it. I am pro police. And pro investigation. So don't shoot the messenger. But there is a lot to be desired in their handling of these types of situations. I especially worry that if in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County there is much to be desired (and even in the very well intentioned Washtenaw Advocacy for Children) it is likely to be even worse elsewhere. These interactions form people's opinion on these organizations and then their opinion on whether or not they should be notified. At different times, by various officers, detectives, and attorneys I have experienced a myriad of responses from none to condemnation. I have also experienced, a lack of proper process, confidentiality, manipulation and even false reporting! Let me just say that the abusive situation was only the beginning of the nightmare. Not that I want to scare anyone away from reporting these things. But, I would like to give fair warning for those who do so to have the confidence to demand fair treatment, respect, and honesty. I think that these people and organizations are doing the best that they can, but that there is a LOT of room for improvement. Maybe when that happens, people will feel more confident coming forward.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.
I have been in the special ed classroom and know that it can get chaotic. I am also wondering why the whole lot is not suspended. Good luck to the teacher, I know he has less then tenure if not there already. What a shame that something like this has to happen. Especially at that age.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.
If there are typically 4 adults in the room, I am guessing it is needed (based on how much AAPS tries skimping on teacher assistants). It is a shame that a student teacher was left to commandeer a room that typically needs 4 adults for the population.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.
sounds like the taxpayers of Ann Arbor are going to paying for this one. The parent should have been notified on the day the school became aware of the incident. It sounds like the school wanted to go into damage control instead.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.
The problem with rushing in and making an angry judgement in this case, is that it only reports on the lawsuit filed by plaintiff. It's perfectly ok for A2dotcom to report on a pending lawsuit. However, I don't think it's right to only listen to one side of the story and then make a judgement on what happened without listening to the other persons side. When I was in highschool, my friend (age 14) had sex with his girlfriend (age15). He was charged with rape. I guess my question is why is it that when 2 under age children have sex, it's usually the girl thats seen as the victim? I'm sorry if this question angers people, but I honestly don't know what the age of the boys involved is, what there mental capacity is, and what their side of the story is.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.
Last sentence in the article, "Ann Arbor schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the school district has not seen the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation."
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.
Absolutely right, Atticus. All we know is what the plaintiff claims; there hasn't been any opportunity for AAPS to respond, let alone for a trial with a full hearing on the facts.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.
We have a child scheduled to start in AAPS in the fall. I am now beginning to question it. There appears to be a breakdown in supervision in these incidents. Is this real or just my perception? AAPS needs to get in front of this story and let us know what they've done to resolve any breakdown that they've found through their investigation. Now that this story is in the public AAPS needs to thoroughly address it. There appears to be a school board meeting Wednesday night - I'd encourage all concerned to ask questions during the public comments portion...
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.
Could - and does - happen anywhere. Heed the advice given here. It will not matter where your child goes, nobody will supervise your child as well as you do. And, unfortunately, you can not always be with them. What you must do is TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. And, remember, things happen. It is how you respond that is key.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:41 a.m.
Atticus F. In this case, I do agree with you. Incidents similar to this could happen in ANY school district. We would like to think a particular 'school district' would be immune of this, is a fallacy.
J. A. Pieper
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.
A2WS1 Just be very aware of what your child experiences and what he/she shares with you. Think of the Discipline Gap issues the new superintendent is focusing on in the AAPS, and how frontline personnel are very limited when it comes to disciplining some students. AAPS is not really very transparent when discussing its bullying problems, ie. "how could we possibly have that kind of problem in our district? " attitude. Good luck with your decision about where your child will be going to school, you might find this problem everywhere you might go!
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11 p.m.
As a parent with a child in the system, all I can say is be aware of any strange things going on with your child. If red flags go up? Take a day off and slip into class, unannounced. Trust me, teachers hate unannounced visits. But it keeps them on their toes. Ours was bullied thru the system but protected once I mentioned PTO Arbitrator. Makes them quake. Good luck.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.
This could have happened anywhere...AAPS, detroit, gross point, ypsi p.s., ect.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.
First of all, I am disturbed by this incident and pray that it may not happen again. I hope that the victim is able to find peace with her emotional scars. About the school what is the spectrum of special needs there? Are all the special education students from the local neighborhood or do they get bused in from other districts? Finally, how does an elementary school boy know about oral sex? Perhaps a criminal investigation of his parents might be warranted?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.
The title of this article should include 'special education' . As it is , it makes it sound like there is rampant sexual abuse going on in the bathrooms of eberwhite .
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.
By adding "special education" to the title does that make it ok? Do these children hold less value? I think the point is it happened, not which bathroom it happened in. Granted I'm sure that's not what you were trying to say but to the parents of special needs children it's very hurtful.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.
Thank you Mary. That was very well stated. From my unfortunate experience, this behavior is more rampant than most parents would ever like to find out for themselves. I like your point about the non special ed kids actually having less supervision. I have come across this more times than I like to think about. I have found that, when notified, places in the business of handling children are more worried about being sued than taking actions to lessen risk. And that the police and legal system have a hobbled together, non-consistent, weak response in place for both the "perpetrator" and the "victim". Weak both in terms of treatment and consequence. It is hard to address these weaknesses openly and fully because of the shame and stigma that goes along with these incidents. Along with teaching kids (and people in general) that this is a serious issue that should not be "hushed" or swept under the rug, but dealt with, it needs to be addressed properly by those authorities who are notified. Once the horrible incident is revealed, it is often just the beginning of another nightmare of either non-responsiveness, or misapplied judgements, blame, recriminations and politics. We have a looong way to go.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.
[Sorry! I hit "enter" before finishing the sentence in my comment....For all the grammarians out there, I think that is what is known as a dangling sentence, or similar.] But, to finish the sentence: We teach our kids to dial "911" if they witness or are victims of crime. We need to clarify that sexual assault, possession of child pornography, etc. are crimes, not "just" bad behavior, and instruct children (and, apparently, adults in schools and colleges, medical schools, and hospitals) to call the police/911 when a crime involving sexual assault occurs. I disagree with the idea that details of such assaults be kept from readers, as one commenter suggested, because that just feeds into the idea that this is something "we don't talk about," and further sweeps it under the rug.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 10:55 a.m.
Unfortunately, to imagine (falsely, as it turns out) that anyone's precious child is immune to sexual assault based on what amounts to a basically arbitrary classification (class, educational status, gender), is to feel a false sense of security. One thing that all the recent (the UMHS pediatric resident, the boys assaulted at Penn, the peeping pediatrician) and not-so-recent (i.e., the Catholic Church) cases in the news show is: that when are children are in what we as parents might reasonably assume to be a safe place, they are still vulnerable. There is some messed-up societal denial and illness, that we are missing, on a large level, and we should focus on what to do about that. If anything, the students involved in this "special education" situation had much more built-in (if not very effective, as it turns out) protection (four professional adults assigned to the classroom!) than "regular" education students, whose use the public school bathrooms occurs in the context of only one supervising adult per classroom, or (as at lunch time) with only one "supervising" adult, who is rooms away. If you are think that only "special education" students would do something like what is described in this article, then we just need to point out, again, the fourth-year resident, the pediatrician, etc. Adults who ought to know better (all those advanced education degrees involved at U-M, Penn!) somehow fail to respond in ways that, thank God, the people in law enforcement at least understand: SEXUAL ASSAULT AND THE POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY ARE CRIMES: DON'T TELL YOUR SUPERVISOR, CALL THE POLICE! Immediately. It's a crime, regardless of who is perpetrating it. We teach our kids that molestation is is "wrong," and to "tell somebody you trust." We need to emphasize to them that is is a crime, and teach them to pick up a phone and call 911, as we instruct them to do, if they are the victims of, or witness
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.
How old are these boys? How do they know about oral sex? Has anyone looked into whether or not they are being abused??
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.
Unfortunately, if you watch shows on TV, it is easy to see how kids "accidentally" learn about these things. Many TV shows are very blatant.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:39 a.m.
Although the suspects (children) possibly actions were wrong, don't be so quick to blame the parents of said suspects. Have you looked what's on our television screens today? Also, now days....kids have access to more 'information' than most parents think or know.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.
Watch any television show these days and they know. Trust me there is stuff on television that parents let their children watch that make me wonder if they should be parents. We do not watch television with anything more then a PG rating. I highly suggest watching the old television shows. Nothing more then bandaging them up and sending them home.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11 p.m.
I have to agree with you. If they are the same age as the girl it seems a bit young .
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.
I don't see what the school district did wrong. Are the parents arguing that the kids shouldn't be allowed to goto the bathroom without supervision? Are they supposed to send teachers everywhere with these students? I doubt they have the funding for that. Are the parents arguing that, if a teacher has knowledge of bullying, they should have foreseen a sexual assault? This seems pretty frivolous to me. Clearly, it's a terrible thing. Sue the boys if you can. But I don't see what the school could have done better. Maybe they should have allowed the girl a quicker exit from the district after the assaults, but dragging their feet on that front is hardly breaking the law.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.
Since so many of these types of incidents happen in the bathrooms - a place where the kids know that they can often get out from under supervision - yes, there should be extra precautions in place. It's not that hard. Stall doors already provide all the privacy necessary - there is no reason for the addition of another closed bathroom door in a place where these things frequently occur (IE in schools, camps, and daycare centers where lots of children congregate and where it is difficult to monitor all of the actions of each and every one at all times). I have suggested this at many of these places - have scheduled bathroom breaks when all children who need to go, go. Prop the door open and monitor the bathroom break. To me it seems like such an easy preventative course of action that can save so much pain and hardship. And, for crying out loud, stop using the "buddy system". Please!
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.
Obviously money is the only way to get AAPS's attention. It makes no sense to me why they didn't just allow the family to transfer without a fight.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.
@darrow, so the one day delay is supposed to cost the district 75k? they're suing for the assault, not the delay after not immediately informing the parent. certainly not ok, but didn't lead to any harm. @jns131, ok, well that's substantial. if they were supposed to be at the door and were not, then that's a problem. @Roadman, how do you figure the teachers were under constructive notice of sexual harassment? i doubt anybody would argue that bullying means constructive notice of sexual harassment. don't see any Title IX violation here.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.
Under Title IX school districts have a duty to take reasonable remedial action to protect a student who they have actual or constructive notice is being victimized due to sexual harassment by a staff member or fellow student.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.
I know for most children who go to the bathroom and are special needs, there is usually a para pro or the teacher watching the door. If distracted? Then yes, something like this can happen. I remember being a para pro and told to stand by the door to make sure nothing happens. Guess this is a lax in judgement on the teachers part?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.
So you are saying it's okay to not immediately inform a parent when a child tells a teacher about being assaulted in a bathroom? And then the next day when the parent finally finds out it's okay to urge them not to go to the police? I beg to differ.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.
This is a tragic situation for all of the children involved, the boys and the girl. @clownfish, having a disabled child is tough, and something I know all the parents involved struggle with daily. There is nothing to be gained by blaming the parents of the boys; they are suffering too.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.
I agree completely Mermaidswim. All of these children need some intensive care. And, even then, challenges will continue to exist.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.
The story is a little confusing since the dates jump around. So the parent wasn't notified until the next day that the incident occured? And no one knew of the October incident until the girl was interviewed by the hospital in March? Sorry if this is obvious, I am just a little confused.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.
That's exactly right, ViSHa. I tried to follow the same narrative of the lawsuit itself, I can understand how it would be confusing.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.
What about the parents of the accused assaulter(s)? Where is their responsibility?
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.
Where did they learn this behavior? Uh, gee, take a guess....let me help you...can we say? Television? Look at how brutal it goes on here. The LA school is removing all of their teachers until their pending investigation is over. Talk about scary.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.
These children need as much help as the girl who was purportedly assaulted.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:36 a.m.
The parents of the suspects in this case, have no liability. The suspected incident occurred at the school, outside of the parents' supervision. The parents are not subject to a tort civil suit, in this case.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.
Yes, but where did they learn this kind of behavior? That's what's frighting me the most.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:06 p.m.
Nothing may happen. They are special needs and the law protects them. Especially if the law states very clearly that they can do no wrong if under 8. This was something stated in another lawsuit years ago under a different situation. I can't wait to read this legal briefing.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.
Why is this the norm when there is a hint of child abuse? Hide and deny is always the first reaction, seems like they all have the same playbook. (Penn State, UMHS, A2 Schools) I wonder who is next? Very sad for the kids who look to adults for help.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.
@johnnya2 Matt is correct to lump them together - it is not the specifics of the incident, but the nature of the response that is the same. $75,000 is a drop in the bucket in terms of the cost of treatment throughout a survivor's lifetime. Some seem to get past it fine, but many struggle their entire lives, often missing out on satisfying relationships, becoming addicted to drugs, and not living up to their potential. It wreaks havoc. $75,000 is nothing.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.
Let's not forget to include the Catholic Church!
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:34 a.m.
'Matt Damon', Actually, if a civil tort (sexual assault case) is proven, then yes...the victim is allowed to sue all parties involved in the tort action. In this case...it could be the school district, parents of the children who committed the tort and individual teachers in the room (unless the school district union contract with the teachers protect them from such actions by making the school district -and their lawyers- principal defenders of such lawsuit). Thus...the reason for a possible $75K 'pay day' as you call it. But, what about the victim? If proven, she could have impacts from this suspected incident, for life. With such, 75K is a low amount to ask for in a tort civil case like this one could possibly be, IMHO.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:51 a.m.
You are comparing VERY different kinds of cases 1. PSU an ADULT sodomizing a child 2. UM- an adult LOOKING at child porn 3. A special needs child attacking another special needs child. Quit lumping them together as if they are all the same and equal. I also have an issue with the mother seeking damages from the school. How come she has not gone after the boys who attacked her daughters parents? How about making sure criminal charges are filed. The first thought should not be $75k cash bonanza
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.
What a shame. No one should have to go through that experience.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.
Did Ann Arbor Dot Com miss the original police report? Was it a public document? If so, how wasn't it reported at the time of the occurrence?
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:27 a.m.
Kyle is right here. In most cases, police reports involving children under the age of 16 are normally protected, unless they are tried as adults for a suspected crime. Then and only then, the records "names" are revealed to the public. The age of consent in Michigan is 17.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.
Could we see a link to this written AAPD policy? What exactly is a 'general policy'? So any police report involving a juvenile is classified information?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.
aaparent: I have inquired with Ann Arbor police previously regarding police reports involving juveniles and have been told that the police cannot release information regarding the reports because they involve juveniles. While I was not covering crime at the time this incident is alleged to have happened (and can't speak specifically about this case), that is AAPD's general policy toward juvenile cases.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.
I think that since the perpetrators were juveniles, the police reports are not released to reporters. But now the a lawsuit has been filed, the information is public. @A2.com - Is this correct?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.
I think it is about time the districts are held accountable for their behavior. My son had been the victim of constant bullying from another child in his school, then the principal began harassing me to have him medicated for ADD (he was tested twice, he doesn't even have it) and then he was labeled a trouble maker and treated poorly by the school. The District refused to grant an in-district transfer so we finally had to move my son to Canton Schools because his father lived there. The following year it was like an exodus. 3 other families I knew pulled their children for the same reason. The bullying is crazy, but even crazier, is the district refusing to help us remedy these issues when the schools Administrations turn their backs on our children.
Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.
@jan, you are welcome to email me, but there were some great people and friends at that school, and I don't feel comfortable publicly bashing them. @jns131 I went to Willow Run, you're preaching to the choir @sh1, Don't they all? @Veronica, I can honestly say that I don't think my being a single parent had anything to do with it. I could be gullible for thinking that, but I was incredibly involved in the school, and other parents (married couples) told me they experienced the same insanity-the principle trying to compel them to put their kids on ADD meds. It was madness.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.
This is interesting, please contact me. I'm doing an expose on AAPS. shalondahere at yahoo dot com. I have experienced discrimination at the hands of this district and I want others to know about it. It's important that everyone know our stories. I have an administrator on tape stating that the district discriminates against single parent kids and I think this applies to you. Please contact me.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.
Sure seems like this story has two sides.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.
Willow Run, Ypsilanti and few elementary schools in Ann Arbor have this problem. But we too pulled ours out of WR because of such issues. Intra districting. Works great.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.
can you tell me the school where your son's bullying happened?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.
Two of you have pointed out a sentence fragment - I've fixed that. I've also updated the story to reflect AAPS has not seen the lawsuit.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.
glad to see the priorities set straight
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.
"In the office, where the regular teacher was pulled out of a meeting in order to interview the students, according to the lawsuit. " This is not a valid sentence.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.
"In the office, where the regular teacher was pulled out of a meeting in order to interview the students, according to the lawsuit." Dear editor, this is what we call a sentence fragment.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.
Terrible. Sentence fragment, BTW: "In the office, where the regular teacher was pulled out of a meeting in order to interview the students, according to the lawsuit."
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:03 a.m.
Uh oh...before you scold me...I meant "worried."
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:02 a.m.
You see an article like this and are worrie about where the flipping commas are?! Wow...
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.
wow....what lesson is to be learned here? Sentence structure?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.
This is the problem: The girl's mother was told about the incident and the interim principal urged her not to call police, the lawsuit states. Quit sweeping the problem under the rug and not involving the police. Doesn't matter where the incident happens or who it involves, e.g. Penn State, UM Hospital, Ann Arbor Public Schools. In the end, the problem becomes bigger and the protection of the institution at all costs hurts all involved.
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.
Unacceptable...heads should roll at Eberwhite and the district level as well! Protect the youth.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.
"Heads should roll" Are you kidding me? Someone will probably get a raise out of this!
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.
You do realize you're only hearing one side of a story through a lawyer?
Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.
how about the parents of the boys. Don't tell me, that they had no idea what was going on. By the way, what does special ed. really mean!