WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Macomb Schools Tight-Lipped About Lawsuit; Parents, Student Sound Off

Feb 27, 2018

The Macomb School District is not saying much about the federal civil lawsuit filed against it and two of its administrators.  But that’s not stopping members of the community from speaking out about it.

The complaint alleges two female students were sexually assaulted and harassed repeatedly on school grounds by a fellow student.  The lawsuit states the female students reported the attacks to Principal John Rumley and Assistant Principal Ed Fulkerson. The suit alleges the administrators failed to investigate or do anything to prevent further harassment.

Five parents and one student spoke about the lawsuit during this week’s Board of Education meeting.  A sample of their comments:

  • Anne Burton, parent:  “The hostile learning environment that’s created for the students at this school is offensive and it needs to be corrected. We are watching. We are angry. Do better.”
  • Melissa Woods, parent: “I believe that the message that was sent due to the way that this administration handled this issue is that they are unwilling to keep my daughter and other students safe from known perpetrators.”
  • Heather McMeekan, parent: “I am outraged that a serial sexual predator was kept in this school and his victims were ignored, invalidated, and treated with contempt and ignorance.”
  • Ilon Lauer, parent: “Our high school appears to be run by authoritarian, animalistic, and out-of-control administrators who lack any understanding of their duty and obligation to protect our students. An assault against one student is an assault against all of us.”
  • Maya Stovall, student: “A school is supposed to be a place where my classmates and I can walk down the hallway without worrying about being sexually assaulted. And further, the school should be a place where if we are assaulted, it is dealt with in a just manner, the victims are listened to and taken seriously, and the perpetrator faces the consequences of their action.”

The district issued a statement saying it will not discuss publicly any pending litigation.  The statement also said the district is taking the lawsuit seriously and it’s actively investigating the allegations. 

However, Superintendent Patrick Twomey chose to add a few comments to the discussion. He criticized social media remarks that claimed Macomb teachers don’t care about students.

“Teachers here absolutely love children. They’re compassionate,” Twomey said.

“We make sure that kids who have needs that can’t be met are met. And I’m talking about families who can’t afford coats and mittens and hats and scarves for their children. We make sure those children get those things for the winter time.”

As for the lawsuit, Twomey said the district does not have a Title IX Compliance Officer but he said it does have a District Complaint Manager, whose duties include handling Title IX complaints.  Section 2:260 of the school district’s policy manual outlines the grievance procedure.

Twomey said Human Resources Director Velvet Taflinger is the district’s primary complaint manager and Macomb High School Assistant Principal Ed Fulkerson -- who is one of the subjects of the lawsuit -- is the secondary complaint manager. Twomey handles appeals.

“Nothing ever came to Velvet or myself. I can’t speak to the building level but I can tell you that no official complaint came to me for appeal,” Twomey replied when TSPR asked him if the lawsuit plaintiffs had gone through the district’s complaint process.

Twomey said the district’s attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit and there is little else he can say about it.