School custodian gave girl ‘birthday spankings’ in bathroom, Michigan lawsuit says

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The parents of an 8-year-old girl are suing her Michigan school district, saying she was sexually abused by a custodian but administrators took little action to protect her or other students.

McClatchy News has reached out to the school’s legal team for comment and is awaiting response.

The girl, identified as Minor Doe in the lawsuit filed Aug. 5, was walking to the restroom at Hemmeter Elementary School in Saginaw when she ran into the custodian, documents say.

It was May 13, the girl’s 8th birthday.

The custodian, referred to only as Jane Roe, asked the second grader how old she was turning, and if she wanted her “birthday spankings” now or at lunch, documents say. She told the custodian she wouldn’t be at lunch that day.

Then the spankings would have to happen now, the custodian is accused of telling the girl.

The custodian followed her into the bathroom and touched her buttocks 8 times, also pinching them, “under the guise” of birthday spankings, the lawsuit says.

The encounter “(constituted) a sexual assault, sexual abuse, and criminal sexual conduct in violation of Michigan law,” according to the lawsuit.

The girl was “extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed” by what happened and told her parents about the incident the evening after school. The next day, they reported it to the school’s principal and their daughter’s teacher.

But instead of sharing the parents’ concerns, school officials brushed the situation off, according to the lawsuit. Neither the teacher nor the principal reported the incident to law enforcement, as is required by law, and no investigation was launched into the accusations, the lawsuit alleges.

Shortly after reaching out to school administrators, the parents also contacted Child Protective Services, attorneys for the girl’s mother, Victor Mastromarco and Kevin Kelly, told McClatchy News in a phone interview.

The custodian was briefly put on administrative leave, the lawsuit says. During this time, the teacher and principal interviewed her about what happened, and she is accused of admitting to touching and pinching the girl.

These “birthday spankings” were something she had done many times before at her previous job at another elementary school, the custodian said, according to the lawsuit.

In a May 18 conversation with the girl’s mother, the principal defended the custodian’s actions, saying the young girl “smiled at the idea” of getting birthday spankings.

Her mother responded that children generally lack the confidence to say no to an adult, and that it was wrong to put a child in such a position. She added that the sort of touching her daughter experienced is a method of grooming children, or acclimating them to sexual abuse.

The custodian was scheduled to return to work the next day, May 19, but the girl’s mother said she was not okay with her being at the school.

“Completely failing to recognize the magnitude of the situation,” the principal said the girl’s mother’s feelings “were unfortunate” because the school employee was “a really good custodian,” according to the lawsuit.

The school district “was more concerned about keeping its hallways clean and garbage bins empty than ensuring its students were protected,” according to the lawsuit.

The girl’s mother also spoke with the district’s superintendent, according to the lawsuit. When questioned about whether he thought it was safe for the girl to be in the same building as the custodian, he declined to answer, instead saying he needed to “circle the wagons,” the lawsuit says.

The custodian, superintendent, principal and Saginaw Township Community Schools are listed as defendants.

The mother’s attorneys are seeking a minimum of $75,000 in compensation.

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