City responds to lawsuit against GRPD & Hope Academy

6:22 PM, Jul 9, 2013   |    comments
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UPDATE 6 p.m. 
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The city of Grand Rapids says it should not be part of a lawsuit recently filed against the police department and a local charter school.

The lawsuit, filed this week in federal court, says that Hope Academy and the Grand Rapids Police Department improperly handled the case of a teenager who says she was raped several times.

The bulk of this lawsuit is against Hope Academy, a charter school in Grand Rapids for at-risk students. The lawsuit says that the school allowed the 14-year-old-girl to walk away from the school, putting her in harms way.

The teen is said to be emotionally disabled, has bipolar disorder and was functioning at about a fourth grade level. The lawsuit also alleges that the Grand Rapids Police department didn't properly investigate the case.

It all happened on January 16, 2012. According to the lawsuit, the teen was kicked out of Hope Academy that day for disrupting class, and her parents were called to pick her up. When the mother arrived, the girl was gone and the school said she must have left on her own.

The teen was eventually found by a homeless person, who contacted YWCA. That's where the teen told counselors that she had been raped several times by several different men. A rape examination was performed and the case turned over to Grand Rapids Police.

Tuesday afternoon, city attorney Catherine Mish said the case was thoroughly investigated and at the time, the girl was actually 16-years old. She says a DNA match was made to one of the men and a rape charge was recommended by the GRPD. It was turned over to the Kent County Prosecutors office, but Mish says the GRPD's request was denied.

"Some DNA evidence was found, but there were multiple male subjects in her story to police. Unfortunately, the young woman's story contained contradictory details, it was not a coherent timeline as to what she alleged occurred," says Mish.

WZZM 13 contacted the Kent County Prosecutors office to see why no charges were pursued. We were told that the attorney who reviewed the case was not in, but they are looking into it.

As for the issue of whether or not the school was negligent when the girl was allowed to leave the school on her own, that is still the main portion of the lawsuit. WZZM has not heard back from Hope Academy or Ferris State University, the organization that oversees that charter school.

Hope Academy of West Michigan statement - 7/10/13

Hope Academy of West Michigan, along with Ferris State University, Hope Academy's chartering authority, and the Grand Rapids Police Department have been named defendants in a federal lawsuit filed on Monday, July 8.

Since this is a matter in litigation we can't comment on specifics, however, Hope Academy cooperated fully with investigating authorities throughout their process and believe all involved with Hope Academy acted appropriately. The safety and welfare of students remain our top priority.

-Heidi Cate, Superintendent, Hope Academy of West Michigan


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/WZZM) -- The parents of a 14-year-old girl have filed a federal lawsuit alleging their daughter left her Grand Rapids school last year without their permission, then wound up being repeatedly raped.

The suit was filed Monday against Hope Academy of West Michigan, Ferris State University, and the Grand Rapids Police.

The suit alleges that the student was told she was suspended for misbehavior and was told to leave the school property which is on Brown Street SE.  She left and was picked up by a man who then assaulted her.  The lawsuit alleges that she was also gang-raped at two other locations.

Hope Academy states on their website that they help students and the families of students who are struggling to be successful in school.  Ferris State University is the charter authorizer of the school.

The police are accused of treating the case as that of a runaway.

Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish told the Associated Press that she has no comment.

WZZM 13 is looking for further information and comments today and we'll have more information when it becomes available.


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