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Michigan Court of Appeals rules against former school teacher, who was fired after reporting abuse

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals has tossed a big jury award in a former Detroit school teacher's whistleblower lawsuit.

In 2004, Beverly Garvin claims a fourth grade student told her that two boys had forced her to perform oral sex. Garvin says she reported the alleged assault to her superiors and nothing happened. Garvin says when she persisted, including contacting police, she was transferred and eventually fired. 

A jury awarded Garvin $750 thousand in damages. 

But this week, the Michigan Court of Appeals threw out the jury award and ordered a retrial. The court said Garvin failed to prove that the school district violated the Civil Rights Act and the First Amendment. The court also dropped the Detroit Public Schools from the lawsuit. It may proceed only against Garvin’s superiors who terminated her.

Tom Pabst is Garvin's attorney. He says he’s shocked by the Court of Appeals decision.

“The message is if you have the courage to stand up and do the right thing for little kids, you better think twice because you can lose your job, your livelihood, your house, your ability to put food on the table, and it may be lights out,” says Pabst. “What a terrible price to pay for doing the right thing.” 

Pabst plans to appeal the Court of Appeals ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court.

A Detroit Public Schools spokesperson says the district does not comment on pending litigation.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.