CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A recent lawsuit claims the Plymouth-Canton school district didn't do enough to respond to a Canton high school student's sexual harassment claims.
The student says she was harassed and bullied so severely she tried to kill herself, and now she and her mother are sharing the story with Local 4 Defender Karen Drew.
They want to keep their story in the spotlight as the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools' response to the lawsuit is due this week.
"I don't want other people to go through what I went through," said the 16-year-old girl, who we'll call Mia.
She said she's still recovering from the trauma she said she experienced at Canton High School over the course of more than a year.
"I told the school multiple times that I was afraid for my life," Mia said.
She said the problems started when a young man she dated for a few weeks started to follow and stalk her in school.
"He was outside of classes, like, every day," Mia said. "Classes that he was nowhere near in his schedule. He would call me a whore and a slut."
Mia said sometimes the boy would follow her by himself and other times in groups, shouting vulgar words.
"I told, multiple times, school officials, like, 'Hey, this stuff is going on,'" Mia said.
"What was the response of the school?" Karen asked.
"They just kept telling me, 'We'll take are of it,'" Mia said.
Mia's mother said she also went to the school frequently to complain.
"I reached out a lot through email, through phone contact, set up meetings, all kinds of things, and just couldn't get anywhere," her mother said.
"I told the school multiple times that I was afraid for my life before he got physical because I could see that he was escalating," Mia said.
According to the lawsuit, that's exactly what happened.
"It was after school," Mia said. "I was walking to an after-school activity and he saw me on the bridge, on the path, and he pushed me into it. I tore all the muscles in my hand. That was the first incident."
"What happened after that?" Karen asked.
"Maybe a week later, it was the same spot, and he grabbed my sleeve to my shirt and, like, pulled me," Mia said.
She said she was in a constant state of anxiety and fear, but didn't know what to do next.
"I started to have, like, PTSD symptoms, and my depression got really bad," Mia said.
She said that's when she took 90 Adderall pills, trying to kill herself.
"It wasn't because I wanted my life to end," Mia said. "I just wanted that life as I knew it to stop, and I wanted something else."
After taking the pills, Mia went to school in a daze. According to the lawsuit, she spent four hours walking around school, too agitated to sit in class.
"Yet no one sought medical attention for her," the lawsuit claims.
"I don't think I even understood the impact when I knew, when I found out she took the pills and I got her to the emergency room, and then I sat in that room with her for three days while she hallucinated," Mia's mother said. "She screamed his name over and over and over again, and just, 'Why won't he leave me alone?'"
Mia said part of the reason she wasn't believed is because at one point she was told she could get in trouble for filing false reports. She also said there are too many students at the three high schools that make up the Plymouth-Canton school complex, where 6,000 high schoolers attend.
Mia believes there should be more counselors and enforcement officials.
"It's a case that really falls within Title IX," said Jennifer Salvatore, Mia's attorney. "It's a form of sex harassment. It's a form of sex based on bullying, to be stalked by an ex-boyfriend and to be called gendered terms. It's like they have a policy in place but haven't trained their people on what the law requires and what their own policies require. So to me, it was a pretty egregious violation."
"Why is this lawsuit so important to you?" Karen asked.
"She's not the only child, and I know this," Mia's mother said.
"You believe there are others?" Karen asked.
"I know there are others," Mia's mother said.
Mia said she didn't leave the school district because she was part of an extracurricular activity and as the victim, she didn't feel she should have to be the one forced to leave school.
"The district does not tolerate harassment of any kind," district officials said in a statement. "All allegations of harassment are taken seriously, are investigated thoroughly and are responded to with appropriate action. We are unable to comment on any specific student matter."