Suit: Charter school ignored girl's harassment, retaliated against mother
A woman is suing a Wayne County charter school where she worked, claiming administrators failed to properly address claims her daughter was sexually harassed then interfered with her substitute teaching job for speaking out.
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, the fourth-grader at Keystone Academy in Belleville reported in October that a fellow pupil had been targeting her, including touching the girl inappropriately and making crude remarks.
The child's mother, who started substituting at the academy in 2017, told the principal. The principal met the 9-year-old on her last day at Keystone but left without acting, the filing alleges.
Days later, the boy’s conduct escalated — including following the girl ‘and graphically describ(ing) how he wanted to ‘rape’ her,” according to the document.
The girl complained to the interim principal's assistant, who told the girl’s mother she would handle the matter but “continued to advocate a ‘wait and see’ approach, that they would ‘look into’ it or even that they ‘couldn’t do anything,’ ” the suit said.
The family’s lawyers wrote that the school “maintained their position of inaction even though by now administrators were now aware of at least two other girls who were getting similar harassing and assaulting conduct...”
When the child’s mother met with school officials in December, “they said that the staff members never saw the conduct, shrugged off the first-hand accounts of other students as not ‘counting’ because they were (the girl’s) friends” and repeatedly questioned her credibility, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not name the child.
The suit claims that after the girl first reported the alleged harassment, Keystone officials stopped providing the necessary paperwork for her mother to obtain a teaching certificate from the state, “no longer called her to substitute, and cut off her school computer access.”
The mother kept serving as a volunteer but removed both of her daughters from the school in January, according to the filing.
The lawsuit seeks at least $75,000 in damages.
Keystone administrators did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.
The school is part of National Heritage Academies, a network of 89 public charters serving more than 59,000 students in nine states, according to its website.
In a statement, spokeswoman Leah Nixon said: “While we do not comment on pending litigation, we take all claims of harassment seriously. The safety of our students and staff is always one of our highest priorities. We work to foster school environments where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”