A Michigan school district has settled a lawsuit with a family after reporting the parents for child abuse for pulling their daughter out of school over its handling of her sexual assault claim.
The lawsuit against Edwardsburg Public Schools had been filed in response to a 2017 incident that allegedly occurred at a music camp.
A 16-year-old male who was in a “mentor” role at the camp went on a walk with a 12-year-old female and allegedly sexually assaulted her. The girl said the male student threatened her school reputation as well as her life to ensure her silence about what happened. But the boy told multiple others about it, claiming it was consensual.
Afterward, the girl faced rumors and bullying, according to the lawsuit. Her parents, whom she told about incident, expressed concerns to high school officials regarding the boy and their daughter being in the same building once she began high school.
The lawsuit alleged the school didn’t investigate the incident, a claim the school denied.
When the girl’s parents removed her from school in light of continued bullying, Edwardsburg schools reported them for child abuse. Child Protection Services concluded there was no child abuse on the part of the parents, according to a report.
The suit also references three other assault incidents involving the boy that occurred before the 2017 music camp when he was permitted to be in a “mentor” position. The lawsuit claims the school did not investigate those and that the victims of those incidents were discouraged from reporting them.
The settlement with the family resulted in $65,000 from the district and $30,000 from the boy. Payments began in June.
However, at a school board meeting on Nov. 21, community members continued to express concerns about the district’s actions.
“I understand they can’t talk specifics because of the children’s privacy,” district parent Jeremiah Montgomery said. “But they could have been more transparent about it, too.”
At the meeting, Edwardsburg High School student Kelle Smith wore a shirt reading “Protection against Predators” as well as “We will not be silenced,” reportedly at the request of the victim.