Federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Allegan Co. school district

Posted at 5:24 PM, Aug 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-15 18:47:09-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A federal sexual harassment lawsuit has been filed against an Allegan County school district involving a former principal who is currently behind bars for criminal sexual conduct.

Jonathan Garcia (Photo from the Michigan Department of Corrections)

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids involves the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA), which services eight school districts in Allegan County.  It alleges that two female teachers faced repeated harassment and a hostile work environment for several years at the Hillsdale Learning Center from then-principal Jonathan Garcia.

The federal complaint accuses Garcia of subjecting the teachers to both physical harassment and sexual assault, including forcing one of the teachers to perform oral sex on two different occasions.

Garcia was charged in February 2016 in Allegan County with criminal sexual conduct involving staff members at the learning center.  He’s currently serving a 2.5 to 10 year prison sentence, according to online state prison records.

The lawsuit seeks monetary relief for those teachers.  It was brought by the Justice Department after both teachers filed discrimination charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Current AAESA Superintendent William Brown issued a statement Wednesday saying that the district’s legal counsel “is seeking to work with the Department of Justice in an attempt to resolve the complaint.”

“We are, have been, and will continue to be, proactive in training all employees with regards to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying. In addition, we will continue to take corrective action when informed of such violations,” Brown’s statement reads.