Lawsuit alleges vision specialist sexually abused 2 students

The parents of two legally blind girls have filed a federal lawsuit against two suburban Detroit school districts and a vision specialist whom they allege sexually abused their daughters in a school library.

The federal suit filed Monday names the Garden City and Livonia districts, the specialist and several officials from both districts. No criminal charges have been filed.

Both girls were eight at the time of the alleged sexual assaults at Garden City’s Douglas Elementary in 2018 and 2019. The girls did not know each other prior to making the accusations and their families had no connection before the abuse came to light, the lawsuit says.

One of the girls suffers from congenital glaucoma and other eye problems, and the other has oculocutaneous albinism, which means she is extremely sensitive to light. They both are visually impaired and considered legally blind.

The specialist was employed by Livonia Public Schools, and the Garden City School District contracted with Livonia for his services. He was employed to work with the girls on mobility and orientation.

According to the lawsuit, the specialist fondled the chest of one of the girls in a room with no windows and the door closed at Douglas Elementary on Oct. 9, 2018.

About a week later, the lawsuit says, the specialist blocked the same girl’s already impaired vision using devices that completely cover the eye, called occluders. The girl then felt his penis in her hand. She told him she felt uncomfortable and removed the occluders just as he zipped his pants.

The lawsuit says the other girl was with the specialist in the same room in December 2019, her eyes also covered with the occluders, when he placed his penis in her hand and around her mouth.

The girl also told him she felt uncomfortable and removed the occluders to find the specialist pulling up and zipping his pants. She told her mother who contacted the girl’s third-grade teacher. Garden City schools and city police then began an investigation.

Garden City police Sgt. Micah Hull said Monday that the investigation has been turned over to the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, but he didn’t release any details. A representative for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office said she would check on the status of the case in response to an Associated Press inquiry.

The girl alleging the abuse in 2018 didn’t tell her mother about it until Dec. 25, 2020, according to the lawsuit. Hull said that case is also under police investigation.

“Their stories are absolutely identical over a year apart,” said Ven Johnson, one of the lawyers for the parents.

Garden City ended its contract with Livonia for the specialist’s services, but he remains listed as an employee on the Livonia district’s website, the parents’ attorneys said Monday.

Garden City said Monday that the district was unable to comment about the lawsuit “at this time due to the sensitivity of the matter.”

Johnson said the districts must detail the allegations in the specialist’s records so other schools can be aware. The Garden City report on him doesn’t mention the sexual abuse allegations.

“Say why you’re doing it and what the allegations are,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to put this in people’s files so the next school district will know.”

“He came here from the west side of the state and we want to know if there are any victims over there who can give us any information,” Johnson said.

District officials named in the lawsuit are accused of failing to enact or provide training on proper policies regarding how minor students are to be left alone and unsupervised with adults.

“I’m hurt, disgusted,” the mother of one of the girls said during a news conference Monday. “How do I trust someone to help us take care of her.” The AP is not naming the mother so as not to identify the child.

The AP left messages Monday seeking comment from the specialist and Livonia Schools.

Williams reported from Southfield, Michigan.