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Federal lawsuit filed against Michigan school district

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A Michigan school district is facing a federal lawsuit over past sexual harassment.

Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA). The agency provides support, cooperative educational programs, and services to local school districts in Allegan County.

The suit seeks damages for two teachers for sexual harassment and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Former principal Jonathan Garcia is currently serving a two- to ten-year sentence for criminal sexual conduct.

According to the lawsuit, Garcia allegedly engaged sexual harassment of two teachers, which included verbal abuse as well as unwanted physical touching that escalated to physical assaults.

“All Americans are entitled to a workplace that is free of unlawful harassment based on sex,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. 

In addition to monetary relief for each of the teachers, the lawsuit wants to require the district to develop and implement policies that would prevent sex discrimination and harassment in the future. 

School officials issued a statement saying the district wants to work with the Justice Department to resolve the complaint.

The lawsuit is part of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative announced in February 2018. The initiative is aimed at eradicating sexual harassment in state and local government workplaces. It focuses on litigation, outreach, and development of effective remedial measures to address and prevent future sex discrimination and harassment.

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.