ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A student who sued Forest Hills Public Schools after claiming she was sexually assaulted by a classmate will be paid a $600,000 settlement.
The student claimed that the school district did not protect her from harassment after she filed a complaint, and instead protected the suspect, who was an athlete. She was 15 at the time of the incident in 2010.
Settlement agreements obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show the school district’s insurance carrier agreed to pay the victim $600,000 to settle the lawsuit. The plaintiff will have to pay her attorney costs and taxes from that sum.
A federal judge had previously ruled that the school district failed to train its staff in how to properly handle Title IX allegations. Under the settlement agreement, Forest Hills Public Schools “will sponsor Title IX training as part of its existing Global Learning Initiative program.”
Part of Title IX requires that school districts “take prompt and effective corrective action,” which includes conducting a separate investigation that may not wait until after a criminal investigation is complete.
“The school cannot just throw up their hands and say, ‘Hey, criminal act, we’re out of it. Call the cops. Our job is done.’ That’s just not the law,” said attorney Genie Eardley.
Eardley is suing Grand Rapids Public Schools on a different alleged Title IX violation.
But Charyn Hayn, an attorney with Varnum LLP, a law firm that represents other school districts, said that school investigations don’t have the same power as criminal ones.
“The district should, at the same time the criminal investigation is ongoing, continue their own investigation. I think the disconnect — if you can call it that — comes just the fact that the internal investigation done by these schools Title IX coordinator is limited,” Hayn said.
She said the districts don’t have subpoena power and the administrators, and teachers investigating may have training but not day-to-day experience.
“The process they have to follow, they don’t have to do it very often, thank goodness. I mean, this is not a daily experience for any district,” Hayn said.
The student, identified as Jane Doe in legal documents, claims she was sexually assaulted by classmate and star basketball player Marques Mondy in a band practice room in 2010.
Prosecutors originally chose not to pursue the case, but later filed charges against Mondy after another student came forward with allegations that he inappropriately touched her, as well.
Mondy was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, but pleaded to a juvenile charge of assault and battery and was sentenced to probation.