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Parent files lawsuit against WCS

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published March 13, 2020

 The mother of a Sterling Heights High School student, whose son has been bullied since revealing in 2019 he is bisexual, is suing Warren Consolidated Schools for failing to stop the harassment of her son.

The mother of a Sterling Heights High School student, whose son has been bullied since revealing in 2019 he is bisexual, is suing Warren Consolidated Schools for failing to stop the harassment of her son.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — The mother of a Sterling Heights High School student who said her son was bullied at school and district officials did nothing about it is seeking justice through the legal system.

On March 9, a Troy mother filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Michigan against the Warren Consolidated Schools district for allegedly failing to stop the harassment of her son.

In the lawsuit, the mother is named as the plaintiff as “Next Friend” for her minor child. The 15-year-old student, a sophomore and football player, revealed in 2019 that he is bisexual.     

Since that time, according to the lawsuit, he has been subjected to homosexual slurs, endured cyberbullying that included threats of physical harm, and was assaulted by other football players, which resulted in a concussion and post-concussion syndrome.

The lawsuit states that because of the “severe harassment, the student became socially withdrawn, became frightened of the school environment, suffered academically and fell into a deep depression.” The lawsuit also states that in November 2019, he “made a suicide attempt in order to get away from the harassment.”

The student is still attending Sterling Heights High School.

The district is being sued for allegedly violating Title IX, harassment based on sexual orientation, and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection based on sexual orientation and gender.

District officials are not commenting on the formal complaint.

“The district has not been served with the lawsuit, and I cannot comment on pending litigation,” WCS Superintendent Robert Livernois said.

Attorney Eric Stempien, of Stempien Law PLLC, in Southfield, is representing the family in the case. The family seeks monetary damages, although a specific amount was not asked, as “that will be left to the jury to determine,”  Stempien said in an email. The family also seeks “changes at the school so that this does not happen to another student.”

“The school district has a policy that allegedly prohibits harassment, including harassment based on sexual orientation. But it is clear that they either will not or cannot enforce their policies,” Stempien said. “We would like to see the school district bring in an expert in the field of school bullying and harassment to provide a comprehensive review of the schools and how they enforce their anti-harassment policies.

“We would like the school district (to) not just bring in a truly independent expert to conduct a review, but also to have that expert make recommendations and then implement those recommendations,” Stempien continued. “There is clearly a systemic problem at the school that needs to be addressed from school district administration, to the administration at the high school, and down to the coaches of the football team.”

According to the lawsuit, the student’s mother consistently informed Sterling Heights High School administrators about the harassment and the impact it was having.

“Defendant took no corrective action or took minimal action,” states the lawsuit. “None of the actions taken by defendant were effective in stopping the harassment; despite the ineffectiveness of its responses, defendant never changed its response to the harassment being suffered by (the student).”

Instead, as per the lawsuit, school officials “warned the offending students that they were being targeted by ‘certain people’” and inadequately investigated the incidents and minimized the severity of the harassment, it states.

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