PONTIAC, Mich. – Pontiac residents are wondering why it's taken more than three months to start investigating allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships between students, teachers and administrators in the school district.
It's against the law to fail to report abuse allegations within 72 hours. Pontiac's superintendent said they reported the allegations, but the Oakland County Sheriff's Office said that's not the case.
There are two active investigations ongoing. The first alleges there were inappropriate sexual relationships with students. The second is an investigation into whether school administrators broke the law by failing to properly report the allegations.
According to the new lawsuit, in January, student Efrain Ortiz reported allegations of inappropriate sex between him and a teacher and between at least three students and an assistant principal who Ortiz claims demanded sexual favors in exchange for approving attendance records.
"She couldn't say nothing about it, because if you miss a certain amount of days at school, our parents all have, like, food stamp cards," Ortiz said. "So if you miss a lot of days, they take it away, so she was just being quiet."
A police investigation should have started within days, but instead, the Sheriff's Office is just now starting the investigation.
When Local 4 asked schools Superintendent Kelly Williams if they reported the allegations to police, she said yes.
"We did investigate," Williams said. "Our general council was involved, as well as the Sheriff's Department."
Then, in a note and robocall to parents, Williams doubled down.
"In this particular case, all allegations were thoroughly investigated in partnership with police and in accordance with district protocols, procedures and policies," the robocall said.
"The Sheriff's Office was never notified by the district of the allegations," the Sheriff's Office told Local 4 in an email. "We were made aware of these allegations via the referrals from CPS."
The state law is clear: school officials must immediately call local police jurisdiction and then fill out a written report within 72 hours. The Sheriff's Department is the jurisdiction for Pontiac schools, and officials said they have no record of a call or written report from school administrators.
In a lawsuit filed against the school district, Principal Vanessa Carter said she immediately notified her supervisors of the student's allegations.
"I took the information," Carter said. "I 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."
She said she was discouraged from doing anything about the allegations.
"I was told to stop investigating the matter by the superintendent," Carter said.
When she insisted on the allegations being investigated, Carter said she was transferred out of the school.
Her attorney, Greg Rohl, said it's sad that it takes a lawsuit to get a full investigation into allegations that school students are being sexually abused.
"I hope this all gets investigated," Rohl said. "That's one of the reasons we filed a $10 million lawsuit to get some eyes on this. If you don't start banging the drum, no one's going to listen."
Officials are interviewing students and staff members. They will go through phone records and emails to determine if the allegations of abuse have any merit and if they were reported properly. Their findings will be turned over to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for a decision on criminal charges.
Failing to report such allegations is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 93 days in jail.