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Grosse Pointe Man Files Lawsuit after Board President’s Resignation

— January 13, 2020

Grosse Pointe schools hit with lawsuit after controversial changes.

Steve Saigh, a Grosse Pointe Woods resident, said in his lawsuit that he was banned from several school campuses in October for “making critical comments about administrators and questioning their decisions.”  The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, was submitted immediately following the resignation of the district’s board president.  Saigh is asking the court to lift the ban, in part, because “his son plans to attend Grosse Pointe North High in the fall as a freshman.”  He also claims the district “doesn’t have the authority” to keep him from campus solely for disliking him.

The superintendent, Gary Niehaus, who is named in the lawsuit, contends that Saigh has been “threatening” to officials and took actions that are “mean, nasty and uncalled for.”  He was allegedly also “seen to be carrying a concealed pistol at a North High School athletic event.”

Saigh’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, denied his client brought a weapon to the school and responded, “If that were true, Niehaus should have filed a police report.”  Schwartz said his client is “being denied his constitutional rights,” adding “It is shocking that hat school officials, who should know better, violated the law by prohibiting my client from doing what all other citizens are allowed to do because defendants did not like Mr. Saigh’s legitimate criticism of their practices and procedures.”

Grosse Pointe Man Files Lawsuit after Board President's Resignation
Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash

Saigh acknowledged in his complaint he has been “critical, but not violent.”  And, he contends that he tried to work the situation out with officials via email, but his address has been blocked.”

We regret to impose these restrictions and limitations upon you, and we will certainly endeavor not to permit them to affect the continuing education of your son,” Neihaus said in a written letter to Saigh. “As Superintendent, however, I cannot and will not tolerate further intimidation and harassment of District employees.”

Once a top-rated and sought-after school district, Saigh’s lawsuit comes after the school board voted to close Robert Trombly Elementary School and Charles A. Poupard Elementary School in an effort to cut costs.  The board also worked out a plan to reconfigure schools some of its schools.  The decisions have been a huge disappointment to many residents, and some have even said that minority residents were purposely excluded from the decision-making.

When the board’s president, Brian Summerfield, submitted his resignation, he posted on social media that he was thankful for the opportunity to serve “in such an important role,” but his said that he was leaving for personal reasons and alluded to his family being impacted by the board’s decisions.

His Facebook post read in full, “As some of you have already heard, I have submitted my resignation from the board today.  It was a very difficult decision, and I was reluctant to do so, but my family could no longer bear the burden of my continued service.  Thank you for supporting and trusting me over the years with such an important role.  Our administration and staff’s professionalism, dedication, and expertise made my position much easier, and I appreciate having had the opportunity to work with so many talented people.”

Board member Judy Gafa commented, “While some may be rejoicing, please pay attention to why he felt the need” to submit his resignation.  She continued, “While politicians are open to criticism and negative comments, family members should be off limits. I can only imagine what his children have been going through as well as his wife…I have witnessed this community rise up to support those in need, to help those who are hurting and show what it’s like to be a neighbor.  There are good kind decent people, but there are also bullies, and we should not tolerate it from adults any more than we would from our children.”


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