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Detroit Public Schools- Latest Targeted in a Sex Harassment Lawsuit; Guard Grabbed Her by the Breasts

from – Detroit — The school security guard singled out the 14-year-old girl before, pulling her close in the hallway, promising to buy her food and telling male students “she’s mine.”

According to a lawsuit filed by the former student at Owen Academy and her mother, the harassment escalated on Feb. 12, 2008, when Detroit Public Schools officer Kenneth Matchett entered her classroom, sneaked up behind her, grabbed her hair, body and breast and said, “Who is this?”

The girl said she told Matchett to stop.

“You must be on your fourth day,” Matchett responded — a comment the girl said she believed to be about her menstrual cycle.

The alleged account from the girl, now 16, came in her and her mother’s legal action against the school district for $3 million — Matchett, Owen’s principal and curriculum leader are also being sued. They claim administrators knew Matchett had a history of harassing female students but didn’t stop him.

Matchett, 43, was convicted in 2008 of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for the incident at Owen Academy, 2001 Martin Luther King Blvd., and landed on the state’s sex offender list. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

The district doesn’t dispute Matchett committed a criminal act. But as the lawsuit heads before Wayne Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter on Sept. 14, the district will ask to the judge to dismiss it on claims it shouldn’t be a party to the suit.

Since the incident, the girl has transferred to another district school, West Side Academy, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In June 2008, she cut her wrist with a razor and rushed to the hospital, records show. The News does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The suit alleges Owen officials knew about Matchett’s previous actions and warned a counselor to be wary when he was with female students, according to the suit. He had taken sexually inappropriate photos of girls with his camera phone and brought some back to his home, the suit alleges.

Detroit Public Schools declined to comment on the ongoing case.

In court papers, DPS contends the girl was cutting herself before the incident and neither she nor friends reported to administrators any prior inappropriate actions by Matchett.

DPS argued that Matchett was at fault — but not the district — and contends they acknowledged Matchett committed a criminal act. ”

The suit alleges the girl told a school nurse and counselor, who told a principal. The principal urged the girl to “keep this between us,” the suit also alleges.

Matchett was later transferred to Northwestern High School, the suit says. It wasn’t until a warrant was issued that Matchett was taken off duty.

Matchett failed to respond to the girl’s suit and the court entered a default judgment of $900,000 against him, according to court papers.

While the school district can argue it’s protected from the lawsuit because of governmental immunity, the girl’s attorney, Richard Bernstein, said the school leaders’ actions are so “egregious” that immunity should not apply.

Bernstein wants the district policies to change to ensure kids are protected and wrongdoing is reported. “If it’s not corrected, more kids are in danger,” Bernstein said.


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