39ºF

Lawsuit filed alleging Pontiac school officials ignored protocol regarding sexual abuse in schools

PONTIAC, Mich. – A Pontiac school principal alleges she was transfered for reporting sexual misconduct.

She said a student came to her with allegations of sexual relationships between teachers and students, and when the principal tried to get the district to investigate, she was demoted and transfered.

The school districts sent a letter to parents Friday that maintains the allegations were investigated. 

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office is now investigating, three months after the allegations were first reported. The allegations have come to light now that the former principal has filed an lawsuit against the school district. 

Efrain Ortiz was a star wrestler at Pontiac High School. He was a popular student who received excellent grades, but he said he did not deserve those grades. 

"I never did an assignment in my 11th grade year and 12th grade year," Ortiz said. 

According to the lawsuit and police reports, Ortiz told school officials he was having sex with his teacher at school and at home. He also alleged she became pregnant during this time.

"I ended up having a sexual encounter with her that made her have a baby and it was my baby," Ortiz said. "We lost it. That whole year we were really going through a hard time."

Ortiz, who worked as a student in the front office, said he reported three different girls who told him they were forced to have sex with an assistant principal so their family would not lose food stamps that are contingent on the children not skipping school.

"I'm probably the only student that wanted to have sex," Ortiz said. "I feel like the other girls were pretty much forced, you know, blackmailed."

Attorney Greg Rohl filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Vanessa Carter, the former principal. 

"This man was holding over food stamps for the for the family in order to get sexual favors," Rohl said. "It's an outrage. I mean it's so outrageous that you need to report it."

"He reported that the assistant principal was sleeping with several students," Carter said. "I took the information and reported it immediately to my assistant superintendent and called the chief of security in to also review the information so that we could determine the next steps."

Carter is unsure if the allegations are true, but said when she tried to investigate, she was shut down by the superintendent and was transferred out of the school.

"I think I was moved because I'm reporting," Carter said. "I wasn't going to just let this go and I think my presence there made that assistant principal feel very uncomfortable."

Pontiac High School is near the bottom in the state in reading, writing and arthmetic and near the top in poverty, single-parent families and student dropouts.

"They're very vulnerable," Carter said. "A lot of them are just trying to survive on their own and get to a place where they can be successful."

Michigan state law requires the school district to report every abuse allegation to law enforcement. Carter and Rohl claim school officials failed to report. 

"The students are the casualties for this very inappropriate behavior," Carter said.

Local 4 Defenders went to a district board meeting looking for answers. A representative said the district reported it to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, but the department said it has no record of the school reporting it. The Sheriff's Office said it received an anonymous tip in January through Child Protective Services and became aware of the scale of the alleged abuse after reading Carter's detailed report 10 days prior, but have heard nothing from school officials who first heard about the allegations more than three months ago.

Investigators with the Sheriff's Office have been tracking down and interviewing students and staff members to find out two things: if the allegations are true and if the school followed the law regarding reporting it.

The full letter from the school district can be read below.