Lawsuit Claims Vision Specialist Sexually Assaulted Blind Teen Girls At Michigan School

According to allegations raised in a recently filed lawsuit, two young girls who are legally blind were sexually abused by a vision specialist at a Michigan school.

The complaint (PDF) was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Michigan, by the mothers of two girls, whose identities were withheld. The sexual assault lawsuit names Livonia Public Schools, Garden City Public Schools, James Baird, Derek Fisher, Andrea Oquist and James Bohnwagner as defendants.

Baird worked as a vision specialist for Livonia Public Schools and was contracted out to Garden City, where he provided services to Douglas Elementary, according to allegations presented in the claim. During that time, the lawsuit claims Baird sexually abused two young girls who were legally blind.

Fisher was superintendent of Garden City schools, Oquist was superintendent of Livonia schools, and Bohnwagner was principal of Douglas Elementary.

The complaint indicates Baird sexually molested one of the girls in October 2018, fondling her chest during a regular session. On another session, later that month, he first put eye occluders on the girl, before allegedly making her hold his penis in her hand.

In December 2019, he similarly assaulted the other girl. Both girls were eight years old when the assaults occurred, according to the complaint, and both told Baird they felt uncomfortable and asked him to stop.

The second victim immediately reported the incident to her mother, who told her third-grade teacher, sparking an investigation by Garden City Public Schools and the Garden City Police Department. The school district determined Baird should never provide services to any of their students again.

Investigators with Garden City schools determined on the day of one of the alleged incidents, Baird only provided services to the student for 13 minutes out of what was usually a 30-40 minute session. He failed to sign out as required on that day. He also was not cleared to use eye occluders, and there was no clear benefit for using them, investigators determined.

However, after being informed of the alleged incidents, Livonia Public Schools failed to fire Baird and is currently still listed as an employee of the district, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes that neither school district attempted to warn students or parents about the incidents or Baird’s conduct.

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