Defenders: Alleged sex crime at local school

It's a lawsuit that is garnering attention of educators and parents.

It's all centered on a seventh-grade autistic child we will call John at Novi Middle School and what he and his parents say happened to him while he attended school there last year.

The mother of the child said she was first alerted there was a problem back in February.

"The first time we were notified was Feb. 27," she said. "We got a phone call from the assistant principal, and Mr. Combs told us that another student has seen somebody touch our son inappropriately under a table."

Local 4 Defenders obtained a copy of the school incident report which details how a "video was being shared" of the "four-minute" incident that occurred during an English class.

In the report, the principal admits to seeing the video and a detailed account is given about what caught was on camera, where one student "moved his hand up and touched John's groin area."

School officials stated, "Given his lack of resistance, the indication of mutual relationship... his discomfort was related to the setting, not the behaviors themselves."

"The notion of consent when you are talking about two 12-year-old special needs students (is) ridiculous," said family attorney Joe Viviano.

He said the school failed in its responsibility to promptly inform parents that the two students were seen inappropriately touching as far back as September of the school year.

The attorney states, "At least five people in the building had saw inappropriate touching incidents."

The student's parents started asking questions of the school.

The mom said, "When we found out there was a video we -- where is the video? We were also concerned about where it's gone."

The parents said they have never seen the video and worry it may have been destroyed.

John's parents talked to their son and said their son told them he was attacked on a daily basis inside a class by the same child that touched him under the table.

Joelle said the fear of having an enemy was one reason her son kept quiet, but more importantly the fact that he is autistic played a major role.

Joelle's son no longer attends Novi Middle School.

The Novi School District superintendent declined an on-camera interview and issued a statement saying in part, "It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation."

Among other items, the lawsuit contends the school district destroyed material evidence, made misrepresentations to the police and failed to investigate their son's allegations.

In response to this lawsuit, Dr. Steve Matthews, superintendent, issued the following statement:

"The Novi Community School District is committed to providing a quality education and a safe learning environment for each and every student. However, beyond confirming that the district is involved in this lawsuit it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation. It is important to remember that our district must follow very stringent privacy laws. Commenting publicly could potentially violate the privacy rights of the students, the families, and our staff. I apologize for not being able to share any further details at this time, but given the legal constraints of the situation this is not possible."

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