Federal Lawsuit Claims Michigan School Allowed Violence, Rioting, Sexual Assault

WWJ News
October 17, 2019 - 5:10 pm
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(WWJ) Students at a Michigan school were allowed to freely engage in outrageous, violent, threatening, and abusive behavior “without restraint, accountability or consequence.”

That's according to a federal lawsuit filed by two Michigan teachers, who claim they were subjected to a hostile and unsafe work environment at Fourth Street Learning Center, a school for at-risk youth in the Jackson Public School District.

Attorney Michelle Vocht represents Amy Gish and Joanna Perkin in the case. 

"They were teachers, they were assigned to an at-risk school," Vocht told WWJ's Rob St. Mary. "And we're claiming that they allowed the teachers to stay in a school, which they knew was filled with at-risk children -- but it wasn't at-risk children, it was some dangerous children who were predatory toward other students, interrupted and disrupted the school, and they didn't do anything really about it in the face of complaints, and really pleas for help."

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit, alleged student behavior included following:

A) The punching out and breaking of windows and threatening staff with glass shards;
B) Throwing of chairs;
C) Punching and throwing computer terminals;
D) Fights and disruptions;
E) Taunting and acknowledging the powerlessness of plaintiffs that “nothing” would happen for serious misconduct and insubordination (which was true);
F) Calling plaintiffs and faculty names such as c***, bitch, dumb, ugly, fat, retarded;
G) Bringing air guns to school;
H) Putting hands on teachers;
I) Refusal to leave the classroom upon instruction to do so;
J) A riot in the cafeteria;
K) Bullying of teachers and other students, leaving fragile students emotionally damaged and often in tears;
L) Sexually assaulting other students without recourse.

((VIEW A COPY OF THE LAWSUIT))

Vocht said this all went on at least a year, from 2017 until 2018.

"During that entire period of time the teachers were subjected to this kind of behavior and violence without intervention of the school district," Vocht said. "And I note in the complaint that a lot of other teachers as well as the principal, the hall monitor, I think a social worker, left. And they left because of stress and the danger."

The suit claims the school district violated Gish and Joanna Perkin's constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment, by failing to “adequately confront and to rectify” violence at the school, which put the teachers' health and safety in serious jeopardy.

The women allege they suffered lost wages, mental pain and anguish, and they're asking for a jury trial to determine unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

In a statement, the JPSD said it's the district's policy not to comment on ongoing legal action. 

Fourth Street Learning Center is housed in a wing of a middle school in the City of Jackson, 40 miles west of Ann Arbor.