Student says district never addressed assault

Kent County

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A student at Caledonia Community Schools says she was assaulted by fellow student, but that the district didn’t do anything after she reported it.

She and her family believe the reason for the inaction is because she does not conform to traditional gender norms.

On Aug. 31, 14-year-old Duncan Lake Middle School student Adrien Mahoney was at a high school football game with her friends celebrating something they called “National Hug Day,” asking fellow students for hugs. When she asked one male student, she said, he knocked her to the ground and beat her up. She claims the student called her a “f—ing f—–.”

Adrien was born female but dresses in a fashion and has a haircut commonly associated with males.

“For him to haul off and hit her like that, I think there’s a lot of anger there and where he would get that at such a young age, to me, is very frightening,” Wendy Becker, Adrien’s grandmother, said.

Adrien suffered a black eye and other bruises in the alleged assault.

She and her family say despite repeated attempts to contact the school district and its security, nothing has been done for more than six months.

On Tuesday evening, Adrien, her mother, grandmother and their newly-hired attorney showed up at the Caledonia school board meeting.

“For Adrien, I mean, the incident was bad, but the way her principal, deputy, the school has treated it is much worse,” attorney Christine Yared told the school board.  “And Adrien is female, Adrien prefers to dress with what we would traditionally call male clothes, a shorter haircut and we have to question, is that a part of it? Is that why this doesn’t matter?”

Rules for Caledonia, as outlined in the student handbook, call for a minimum two-day suspension for an assault.

“There has been nothing, nothing, even a day or two off for the student who hit her — it seems they are protecting him and not her,” Adrien’s grandmother said.

The family also hired advocate Todd Harcek to try to get satisfaction from the district, without success.

“To see persistent indifference to the plight of this poor kid and the damage done on the family is unacceptable,” Harcek said.

Yared said the Kent County Sheriff’s Department investigated after she was hired by the family. The sheriff’s office turned over its findings to the prosecutor, which declined to press charges.

During public comment at the meeting, Don Bergman, a retired teacher, said his son struggled with being gay in a society that did not accept him.

“It should be addressed, it should be addressed immediately,” Bergman said of the school’s response to the alleged assault. “Every gay kid in this school is thinking ‘Hmm, am I going to be protected?’”

The district says the investigation process is playing out and it can’t comment on a specific case.

Dirk Weeldreyer, who was named interim superintendent in Caledonia this month, said he has looked into the issue.

“I believe the appropriate steps were taken,” Weeldreyer  said. “It certainly hurts us whenever there is someone who feels they are being unfairly targeted or whatever and so it’s something we take very seriously and we will continue to look into.”

Asked if the district has a bullying problem, Weeldreyer answered, “Not in my opinion.”

Adrien’s family said they don’t want the student to be expelled. Rather, they would prefer he get help.

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