Michigan kindergartener sodomized by 4 classmates
Grandville is a suburb of about 15,378 people in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 92% of the city’s 15,378 residents (2010 census) are white, 2.2% black.
John Hogan reports for ABC13, March 22, 2018, that a Grandville kindergarten student was sodomized for months by four fellow classmates, according to a 23-page federal lawsuit filed this week in Grand Rapids by the boy’s parents.
The kindergarten is the Century Park Learning Center, Grandville, Michigan — a public K-6 school with 519 students, 80% of whom are white, 8% Hispanic, 6% Asian, and 3% black. (Source)
The boy is identified in court documents by the alias, Jimmy Doe.
According to the lawsuit:
- The sexual assaults began in fall of 2014 when Jimmy Doe was five years old, and continued until April 2015.
- During kindergarten teacher Hillary Huberts‘ classroom “free time” (whatever that means), four boys took Jimmy to the mudroom area of the classroom where they touched and sodomized him and took photos of his genitals using classroom iPads. Images were continuously deleted to create space for additional photographs “each time they attacked Jimmy’’.
- The photos were disseminated to other students, which led to Jimmy being continually harassed, forcing him to dig hiding places beneath playground equipment where he would “cover himself with mulch”.
- “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.”
Jimmy Doe’s parents noticed both a physical and emotional deterioration in their son, who was born in 2009. They raised concerns during a parent-teacher conference, but school officials did not protect the boy and turned a blind eye to the abuse once it was brought to light:
(1) When the boy’s mother asked for a police investigation, she was told by Principal Tonia Shoup that an investigation had already been completed and found “no indication of coercion or assault.’’ Shoup told the boy’s mother that she had interviewed the four boys involved in taking the photos, and that the four boys denied assaulting Jimmy and that it had been Jimmy’s idea to display his genitals in the classroom and to having his pictures taken.
(2) In a subsequent meeting with then-Grandville Superintendent Ron Caniff and Assistant Superintendent Scott Merkel, the parents were told the pictures had been deleted “and they could move Jimmy to another school district if they wanted.” Caniff and Merkel “stressed that the pictures needed to be viewed in the context of kindergarteners’ normal curiosity and suggested that if the parents insisted on pressing the matter, Jimmy would be the one to be disciplined as he was the only child whose genitals were photographed.”
Caniff, who is now superintendent of Kent Independent School District, issued a statement refuting the allegations:
“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. As I read through the complaint, there are several allegations that will be refuted, but since attorneys are involved, that will occur in due course through the legal process. Beyond this, I do not have more to add at this time since this is a pending legal matter.”
For his part, the current Grandville Public Schools Superintendent Roger Bearup released a statement, saying the district cannot respond in detail to the allegations:
“However, 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. We patiently wait for that truth to be revealed. Until then, we will have no further comment.”