Ann Arbor Community High School accused of mishandling at least a dozen cases of sexual assault

Sunday, April 28, 2019 - 2:27pm

Ann Arbor Community High School confronted with multiple incidents of mishandling sexual assault cases.

Ann Arbor Community High School confronted with multiple incidents of mishandling sexual assault cases. Buy this photo
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A parent of a student at Ann Arbor Community High School filed a Title IX complaint to the Office of Civil Rights on April 25, claiming Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) has mishandled at least 12 incidents of sexual assault.

In her report, Jenny Hannibal alleges that the administration at Community High School, led by Dean Marci Tuzinsky, has violated Title IX guidelines by regularly failing to complete Title IX documentation forms.

In addition, the complaint also alleges that the school neglected to notify the police in multiple cases of sexual assault and the victim’s parents in at least one case of sexual assault. In the report, Hannibal mentions Michigan’s mandated reporting laws, which require mandatory reporters such as school administrators and teachers to disclose suspected child abuse and neglect to the police.

According to Hannibal, Community High School teachers who have attempted to report the incidents to district-level staff above Tuzinsky have been threatened with job transfers or job loss.

To obtain information for her report, Hannibal sent AAPS several Freedom of Information Act requests, which allow any person the right to request access to government records. In the complaint, Hannibal claims AAPS either ignored, denied or replied significantly beyond the allotted FOIA time period to her requests.

On April 26, AAPS Superintendent Jeanice K. Swift sent a letter to Community High School parents, expressing the school district is confident it has acted in compliance with federal law.

“I can assure you that when a situation emerges regarding the safety of our students, members of our team follow appropriate steps,” Swift wrote. “While we are not able to speak directly to the specifics of this case as those matters are protected under Federal privacy laws, we absolutely can assure that we consistently follow this protocol and steps as appropriate in matters of student safety.”

Hannibal’s report accuses Community High School administration of “systemic mishandling of sexual assault cases,” including the apparent cover-up of an alleged on-campus rape by an expelled student in 2016. According to the complaint, the rape occurred in the school art room after Tuzinsky conversed with the alleged perpetrator “at length” about him possibly returning to the school.

According to Hannibal, Tuzinsky did not report the alleged rape to police after learning of it from the school security video. The complaint also states Tuzinsky threatened to transfer a teacher who attempted to report the alleged rape to Paul DeAngelis, AAPS executive director of high school education and Title IX coordinator.

In another case, Hannibal claims a current student at Community High School has perpetrated nine incidents of sexual assault against other students at the school. According to Hannibal, administration says they cannot expel him, and the alleged perpetrator’s family claims he is entitled to an education at the school.

After filing FOIA requests with AAPS, Hannibal determined no Title IX Complaint Forms were filed by Community High School staff for these 10 incidents.

In the report, Hannibal explained she also submitted FOIA requests to the Ann Arbor Police Department for a report of all known sexual assault cases, sex crimes and physical assaults. According to Hannibal, AAPD sent her a complete record of calls from Community High School from 2015 to 2018, which included one November 29, 2018 call about penetrative sexual assault. Hannibal noted this incident was not corroborated by a Title IX Complaint Form.

Hannibal expressed in her complaint the lack of matching records between AAPS and AAPD.

“To summarize, I asked the police for records to corroborate the account of nine sexual assaults, and the alleged rape in the art room,” Hannibal wrote. “The police were only aware of one incident, and it was an entirely different incident than any of the ten I was seeking verification for.”

The report also details the administrations response to an alleged sexual assault in September 2018. According to Hannibal, the victim of this incident no longer attends Community High School as she and her mother feel the school is “no longer the best option for the girl’s education.”

On Sept. 27, 2018, the girl and a friend reported sexually inappropriate touching by the same boy to school personnel. In response, staff spoke with the boy, who admitted wrongdoing, and warned him not to have contact with either girl, the report says. The report claims neither the parents of the girls nor the police were notified, and the incidents were never documented.

The girl told her mother about the incident Oct. 1, 2018. After her mother contacted the school, the boy’s parents were notified of the incident and he was suspended for three days, the report explains.

According to Hannibal, when the boy returned to school, administration had not switched the boy out of the girl’s classes, so the alleged victim’s mother and a teacher did so instead. When the complainant's mother asked administration about further consequences for the boy, the report says Tuzinsky suggested she file a police report for answers to her questions although Tuzinsky should’ve contacted the police as a mandatory reporter.

Since no staff had filled out a Title IX Complaint Form to AAPS, the girl’s mother filed one on Oct. 9, 2018. DeAngelis responded on Nov. 2, 2018 with a Title IX Investigation Report maintaining AAPS handled the case properly, though Hannibal claims the Investigation Report contains multiple errors.

In a late Nov. 2018 phone call with the alleged victim’s mother, Tuzinsky expressed the administration could do nothing about another student who had assaulted nine girls, the report says. During this conversation, Hannibal alleges Tuzinsky said the perpetrators “were entitled to an education” and “we need to mentally toughen the girl up.” 

Hannibal said the girl’s mother reviewed and approved Hannibal’s complaint.

According to MLive, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights does not have a record of Hannibal’s complaint though it could still be processing. The Federal Office of Civil Rights has not confirmed whether it has received the report.

In a public post to her Facebook page April 25, Hannibal explained her daughter is not among the victims in the complaint. Hannibal voiced the alleged violations of Title IX regulations are a community issue.

“The twelve teenage girls in the formal complaint are not my kids; they are all our kids,” Hannibal wrote. “They belong to this community, and we need to do better.”

The school district will be holding a parent meeting on April 30 at 7:45 a.m. at Community High School to respond to questions and concerns regarding the claims in Hannibal’s complaint. According to Swift’s letter, AAPS leadership, AAPD representatives and AAPS counselors will be in attendance.