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Sexual assault claims lead to lawsuit against Mason Public Schools

top back of a school bus
Nick Quan

The Mason Public School District and two Ingham County officials are facing a civil rights lawsuit related to the alleged reinstatement of a student who was expelled over sexual assault claims made by another classmate.

According to the federal complaint filed in Grand Rapids, the sexual assault occurred in May 2022, resulting in an expulsion. The student returned to the district in the fall of 2023, causing the plaintiff “mental anguish” while a no-contact order between the students was in place.

The lawsuit claims the student’s return was the result of “significant influence” by his parents. The complaint names Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum and her husband, Brad Delaney, a sergeant in the county’s sheriff’s department as defendants.

“The parents petitioned the Board of Education, a hearing was held and they allowed him to get back into the school without even considering the ramifications of what that might look like,” said Brandon Wolfe, the plaintiff’s attorney.

The complaint also names Mason High School principal Lance Delbridge and assistant principal Nicholas Toodzio, claiming the two failed to uphold the district’s no contact order between the two students, resulting in their continued interactions.

WKAR is not naming the students because they are minors.

“She continually saw him every single day, down the hallways, in lunchrooms, in extracurricular activities,” Wolfe said. “It's like somebody, a victim, being in the same jail cell as their own assailant.”

Wolfe claims an Ingham County circuit court judge issued a personal protection order against the expelled student that noted he “poses a credible threat to the physical safety” of the student victim.

The decision followed Mason Public School’s Title IX investigation into the sexual assault incident which prompted the expulsion, according to the lawsuit. The complaint seeks more than $75,000 in damages from the defendants.

Wolfe alleges that the school district violated the victim’s rights under Title IX civil rights protections when it allowed the expelled student back. Wolfe says he should be unenrolled from the district.

“This child is a school of choice student, which means he doesn't live in Mason and his parents live in another city,” he said.

According to Michigan law, the parents of a student who has been expelled over an incident of sexual or physical assault may petition the district to reinstate the student.

Mason Public School officials said they cannot comment on active legal matters. A request for comment from Byrum and Delaney’s attorney went unanswered at the time of publication.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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