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Grand Rapids Public Schools say district shouldn’t be held liable for actions of abusive teacher

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

A civil lawsuit filed in November against Grand Rapids Public Schools claims administrators failed to protect five teenage students from sexual assault. Now, the district is disputing those claims. It’s asking a federal judge to dismiss the case.  

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.

The boys' parents say school officials knew about the abuse but didn’t do anything. They claim administrators didn’t do enough to provide students a safe learning environment at the high school. The boys’ parents say school administrators retaliated against the students instead of offering support.

But in court documents filed for the district late last month, lawyers argue administrators did act quickly to get Williams out of the classroom.

“The facts in this case cannot be any clearer. The District’s response was swift and decisive,” the attorney wrote.

The district claims they notified the police immediately when they heard of concerns of abuse.

As for the claims of retaliation, GRPS claims none of the students or their parents have made any specific complaints about who did or said what and to whom it was reported. The district says the students were and are welcome to remain at the school.

Further, the district argues there’s no policy or custom that the students or the parents can point to that caused the abuse. The district points out the teacher broke school policy and the law. They say the district shouldn't be held liable for the actions of an abusive teacher.

A GRPS spokesman and the attorney for the parents in the case both declined interview requests at this time.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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