A 14-year-old Brighton High School student on Monday asked the Brighton Board of Education to expel a male classmate who sexually assaulted her.
“It’s my birthday and I’m at a school meeting begging you guys to protect me,” said the girl, one of three allegedly victimized by the Brighton Township boy. “If he comes back to school, I’ll have to leave, I don’t want to, but I can’t see him every day.”
The boy, 16, was charged with multiple felonies last spring, including criminal sexual conduct, home invasion, gross indecency and possession of child sexually abusive material. Two of the alleged victims were 12 at the time of the attacks and one was 13.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of accosting a minor for immoral purposes and four counts of possession of child sexually explicit material. On Oct. 19, he was sentenced to 45 days in a juvenile facility before returning home for probation, sparking outrage in the community.
By Dec. 4, he could potentially be back in Brighton High School, where the now 14-year-old he assaulted is trying to resume her life as a student and overcome the post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety that caused her to leave school for a time.
“This is a life sentence he has forced on me and I didn't do the wrong thing,” said the girl. “He has 45 days in prison—in jail—and I didn't do anything and it’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life.”
The Livingston Daily does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, nor the accused perpetrators when they are minors.
Behind the girl, offering support, was one of the younger girls the boy had also assaulted, who told the board that that's not the only problem. She told board members of “sexual games” that take place in school hallways during class changes, with boys touching girls’ behinds. No discipline takes place because there are no adult witnesses.
“I am only 13, but I understand keeping my hands to myself is something everyone should know," she said. "They shouldn't be touching each other in general. It’s the parents’ choice on how to teach and raise, but the school can do something, too.”
As a victim of sexual assault, she added that she wants people to know how difficult her experience has been. Even now, she is afraid to go to school and believes others blame her for the assault.
“They treat me like it’s my fault or I asked for it,” she said. “Just because girls wear leggings doesn't mean they want boys to touch their butts or take pictures of them or do adult things. You just want to be comfortable when learning. I am not comfortable in my own school because of how my peers act.”
Her mother, as well as the mother of the 14-year-old, asked that the boy be expelled and requested changes to school policy to further address sexual harassment and bullying.
“My understanding is the board has the right to expel students for certain acts and I am asking the board to do so,” said the 14-year-old’s mother, noting that eight times in the school district’s policy guidelines, sexual misconduct is mentioned as grounds for expulsion. “I don’t believe it is safe for Brighton schools, specifically Brighton High School, to have sexual offenders, especially a tier three, roaming the halls, especially serial sexual offenders.”
She added that if the boy who assaulted her daughter were permitted to return, her daughter, who has begun to recover from the trauma, would not be able to stay in the school.
Before the remarks by parents and the victims, school board president Andy Burchfield told the audience: “The district is aware of a community concern regarding a student matter. I caution the audience not to mention names of any students.” He said the board was consulting with its attorney and would not comment or take any action regarding the matter that night.
And after the meeting, Brighton Superintendent Greg Gray declined to comment specifically on the possible expulsion of the boy.
The 14-year-old said there are days when she wants to crawl under the bed. Other days she goes to school happy and sits with her friends, and this is what she wants to keep doing.
“I have a great support system and I have faith in the school board to protect girls like me,” she said. “You can’t change what happened to me, but I want to change it for somebody else.”
Laura Colvin contributed to this report. Contact Susan Bromley at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter at @SusanBromley10