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Parents of sexual assault victims say school offered no support, retaliated against students

Nov 11, 2014

High-profile civil rights attorney Gloria Allred explained the details of her clients’ case at a press conference Tuesday.
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lawyers say Grand Rapids Public School administrators didn’t do enough to provide students a safe learning environment at one of its high schools.

Jamila Williams, a former math teacher at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy, was convicted of four counts of criminal sexual conduct for having sex with underage boys. She’s now in prison.

At a press conference today, the mothers of two of the victims claimed their sons lost friends, became depressed, and had academic problems because of the abuse. The mothers were not named to protect the privacy of their children.

“You would think that since all of this has happened that we would receive an apology from the school, that the school would ask how are boys are doing, or even if there’s anything that they can do to help us. Instead, it's been complete silence,” one mother said, wiping away tears.

The boys’ attorneys say school administrators knew about the abuse but failed to protect the students. They also claim officials retaliated against the victims by making it difficult to get transcripts to transfer out of the school.

A federal lawsuit claims administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools failed to conduct their own investigation into the incidents and allowed Williams to interrogate the students to find out who had “blown the whistle” on her before the district suspended her.

“Some people say that the boys should be fine because they’re boys. But boys who are victims of child sexual abuse – they get hurt too,” the mother continued. The boys were 15 and 16 years old when the assaults occurred.

High-profile civil rights attorney Gloria Allred has joined the case. Allred says the school district violated Title IX of the federal education code, which protects people from discrimination based on their sex.

A Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesman says the district cannot comment on pending litigation.