Women alleging sexual assault to sue districts, FPS teacher

Attorneys with Southfield-based Sommers, Schwartz P.C. say they plan to file a civil suit on behalf of eight women who allege sexual misconduct by a Farmington Public Schools (FPS) teacher while he worked for Clarenceville and Troy school districts.

Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller
Attorney Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller speaks with reporters following a September 9 press conference.

FPS placed the teacher, who has not been criminally charged, on paid administrative leave after the allegations surfaced late last month. District officials said they had launched an internal investigation and contacted law enforcement.

The teacher has worked for the district since 2018. No FPS students have filed complaints.

Attorney Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller said survivors were 13-16 years old when the incidents happened, and school officials were informed about each case. The women have described behaviors that include inappropriate comments and touching, explicit photos sent via SnapChat, and sexual assault. 

In a statement read during the press conference, Clarenceville graduate Emmalee Forrester said she was 14 when the teacher started showing her special treatment in the wake of her step-father’s death. Attorney Elaina Bailey said that appears to be a pattern with the abuse; survivors had experienced a loss, either through death or divorce. 

A year later, Forrester said, inappropriate comments and touching “became part of my daily routine.” After someone anonymously asked school officials to check on her, she recounted the abuse.

“The principal assured me that something was going to be done and that he was going to look into it,” she said, but she was never contacted by authorities. “Nothing happened, nothing changed.”

Forrester said the inappropriate conduct continued during her senior year. Though she and a friend talked to another teacher about it, she said, nothing was done.

Districts have mandatory reporting requirements, Esser-Weidenfeller said, adding, “Based on what we know so far, no one did that.”

Clarenceville Schools released a statement on August 21 saying the district followed its established policies and worked with appropriate authorities when concerns were reported.

“The question we all have for them is what established policies?” Esser-Weidenfeller said. “Where are the reports to law enforcement? Where are the reports to child protective services? We haven’t seen them. Our clients haven’t seen them.”

She also called for changes to the short statute of limitations and governmental immunity provisions in Michigan law that prevent victims from filing criminal complaints.

The attorneys asked teachers, administrators, and custodial staff who may have witnessed incidents to come forward and support the victims. In addition, they believe there may be other victims. The teacher also worked with music and theater students at:

  • Madison High School
  • Summit Academy in Romulus
  • Metropolitan Detroit Youth Chorus
  • Christ Church Cranbrook
  • Crescent Academy in Southfield
  • University of Michigan Summer Vocal Academy of Music

Because no charges have been filed, Farmington Voice will not name the teacher. While we have identified one victim who spoke openly during the press conference, we typically do not name victims of sexual abuse.

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