The parents of a Michigan kindergartener are suing Grandville Public Schools, claiming their child was sexually assaulted and filmed by classmates.
Listed in court filings as John and Jane Doe, the mother and father say their son was sodomized by other children, the attack recorded on an iPad. Video of the assault spread, leading the son – referred to by the courts only as Jimmy Doe – to “cover himself in mulch” to ward off further attacks.
School officials didn’t protect the child from his assailants, claim John and Jane, neglecting to take action once the abuse was brought to light.
“The assailants told Jimmy that if he did not cooperate with them, or if he told about the touching and pictures, they would not be his friends and they would say the sexual activity was Jimmy’s idea,” reads one excerpt from the 23-page suit.
Along with the academic district, several administrators and a teacher are listed as defendants in the brief.
Grandville Public Schools Superintendent Roger Bearup released a statement Thursday, saying officials weren’t authorized to discuss pending litigation.
“However,” said Bearup, “we assure you that our focus is and always will be on the safety and care of every student who walks through our doors.”
“Litigation is meant to be an avenue to the truth,” he continued. “We patiently wait for that truth to be revealed. Until then, we have no further comment.”
WZZM13, based in Grand Rapids, MI, listed several of the accusations given by John and Jane Doe. Between fall of 2014 and April of the following year, they say, Jimmy was led to a school mudroom by four other boys. Inside, they touched and sodomized him, taking photos of the child’s genitals with classroom-provided iPads.
The molestation purportedly occurred when teacher Hillary Huberts allowed the students “free time.”
“The four boys directed Jimmy as to what and how he was to pose and for how long while the boys used classroom iPads to take photographs,” claims the suit.
Noticing strange behavioral changes in their child, John and Jane Doe raised their concern during a parent-teacher conference. Later investigation revealed nothing. When the young perpetrators were eventually interviewed, they pinned the responsibility on Jimmy.
Principal Tonia Shoup said an internal review found “no indication of coercion or assault.”
A meeting with former Grandville Superintendent Ron Caniff and Assistant Superintendent Scott Merkel led nowhere. WZZM13 reports the parents were told the pictures had been deleted “and they could move Jimmy to another school district if they wanted.”
Caniff denied any knowledge of the abuse.
“At the time I was at Grandville Public Schools, there was never any suspicion, suggestion or complaint expressed about inappropriate physical contact between the students involved in this matter, nor did the investigation indicate any concerns in that regard,” said Caniff.
“In fact,” Caniff said, “the very first I heard of any alleged physical contact in this situation was yesterday.”
Jimmy Doe did eventually switch districts after allegedly spending recesses buried in mulch, trying to hide from his attackers.