Feds suing over sex abuse at Allegan Co. school

Allegan County
JONATHAN GARCIA-020316_187476

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The federal government is suing the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency over how it handled complaints about a former principal who ultimately sexually assaulted two employees.  

In the suit filed in federal court Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges the AAESA violated the federal Civil Rights Act by subjecting the two victims to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at the hands of Jonathan Garcia, who at the time was their supervisor as the principal of the Hillside Learning and Behavior Center.

The suit (PDF) says that as far back as 2014, Garcia made explicit comments toward, molested and eventually sexually assaulted the two women. The suit says he threatened them to keep them silent and that when they refused his advances, he gave them bad work evaluations.

The suit says the women reported the harassment to AAESA administrators in 2014, but that they didn’t do anything to stop it. They complained again in October 2015 that Garcia made them uncomfortable. Again, the suit alleges, administrators didn’t investigate properly.

The situation worsened after that 2015 complaint, the suit says. The women ultimately went to police.

Garcia resigned in early 2016 as he faced a slew of criminal sexual conduct charges linked to the assaults. Michigan Department of Corrections records show he eventually took a plea deal and was sentenced to prison in August 2016. His earliest possible release date is Feb. 8, 2019, though he could remain behind bars until 2026.

In the lawsuit, the government asks the court to make AAESA create additional policies and training to prevent and investigate harassment. It also asks that the court order AAESA to pay damages to the two women.

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