Detroit school board: State should pay Pugh settlement

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Detroit Public Schools board passed a resolution Thursday asking the state to pay a $350,000 settlement reached with a former student who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the district and former City Council president Charles Pugh.

“The money that would be paid to the victim is going to come out of the classrooms, and that is what we are opposing,” said board member Elena Herrada.

The unanimous decision came during a board meeting Thursday at Frederick Douglass Academy, where the former student met Pugh in 2012 through a mentoring program. The settlement reached last week between the former student and Detroit Public Schools for its portion of the lawsuit came hours into the second day of the civil trial. School district lawyers said the activity between Pugh and the student was "text messaging between two adults" and none occurred on DPS property.

Pugh has denied touching the teen but has admitted to spending money on him and sending sexually explicit texts. The former student, identified as K.S., said Pugh harassed and convinced him to produce a sex video, and offered cash for oral sex.

The board’s move Thursday came a week after Herrada and another member, Tawanna Simpson, said the panel would not authorize the settlement since Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 436, allows board members to reject it.

Board members said they also warned then-Emergency Manager Roy Roberts about Pugh but were ignored.

“The state caused the problem,” Herrada said. “The state must pay.”

Reached late Thursday night, David Murray, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder, said: “We disagree with the school board. It’s our understanding that discussions about a potential settlement are ongoing. This is a district matter, and it would be inappropriate for the state to comment on a pending legal issue concerning the district.”

On Monday, jurors awarded the former student $250,000 in a split verdict. Jurors dismissed the sexual harassment claim against Pugh, but found him liable for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Pugh was not criminally charged.