(Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this story included a picture of the wrong high school. This story has been updated.)
TUESDAY, Feb. 6 — A federal civil rights lawsuit claims that Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum and her husband used political influence to get their son reinstated to Mason schools after he was expelled for allegedly sexually assaulting another pupil.
Byrum’s husband, Brad Delaney, is a detective sergeant in the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office. Byrum is serving her third term as clerk. She was a state representative before being elected in 2013.
The suit names Byrum, Delaney, the school district and the principal and assistant principal of Mason High School as defendants in the suit, which only identifies their son by initials. The plaintiff is the mother of the girl that their son allegedly assaulted.
“Approximately 150 days after the suspension,” the suit charges, (the son’s) “parents petitioned — using their local political influence — the Mason Board of Education for reinstatement of” their son to Mason High School.
“Defendants Mason Public Schools and the Mason Board of Education violated Plaintiff’s civil rights pursuant to an agreement with or in concert with Defendants Barb Byrum and Brad Delaney,” the suit says.
It adds that Byrum and Delaney “were acting under their unique positions of power when they conspired with Mason Public School District and Board of Education.”
The suit does not spell out how Byrum and Delaney allegedly used their positions to influence the school district, however.
Brandon Wolfe, the lawyer representing the girl’s mother, who brought the suit in federal court in Grand Rapids last Friday, declined to comment on the case.
East Lansing attorney Mike Nichols confirmed he is representing Byrum and her husband, but he also declined to comment.
Byrum did not respond when asked via text message for comment. Earlier, she said by text, “There are minors involved so no names should be mentioned.”
Efforts to reach Delaney were unsuccessful.
City Pulse is identifying Byrum and Delaney because of their roles in the community — in her case as a prominent politician and in his because he is in law enforcement — and because of the allegations that their influence played a role in the decision to reinstate their son.
The suit was first reported by the Lansing State Journal.
Besides the school district and the boy’s parents, the suit names Lance Delbridge, the principal of Mason High, and Nicholas Toodzio, the assistant principal, as defendants.
The alleged sexual assault took place in class in 2022 at Mason Middle School, where both youths were eighth graders, the suit says. The suit alleges that the female student “was sexually assaulted by another student … by digital penetration.” Efforts by the girl to stop the assault were unsuccessful, the suit says, but it adds, “Luckily the bell rang,” which stopped the assault.
The suit says that on another occasion the boy “tried to perform the same act” in a different classroom, but the girl moved away.
“These incidents were ultimately reported” and investigated by the Mason Police Department, the suit continues, which led to a Title IX investigation. Title IX is a federal civil rights provision against education discrimination through sexual harassment, among other causes.
After the Title IX investigation, the suits says, “the district found that (the boy’s) unwelcoming touching and digital penetration … was so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denied (the girl) equal access to the district’s educational program in violation of her civil rights.”
As a result, the school board expelled the boy for his ninth-grade year, the suit says. The girl’s family chose not to sue in order to move on.
Then Byrum and her husband asked for his reinstatement.
“The following year, (the boy) was placed back in the exact same public school district as (the girl) — Mason Public High School,” it adds.
The suit also says that school officials put into place a “No Contact Order” between the two pupils, “which essentially treats (the girl) as if she were equally blameworthy for the incident in the 8th grade and precluded her from traversing down certain hallways, hanging around classrooms or lockers of (the boy), avoiding face-to-face contact,” among other restrictions.
The suit says the girl “continues to see (the boy) daily in the halls, lunchrooms, and extracurricular activities,” which “every day is a constant reminder of being sexually assaulted” and of the “mental anguish from that embarrassment.”
The suit also says that the “consistent contact” violates a personal protection order issued by Ingham County Probate Judge Richard Garcia that was reinstated as recently as Jan. 24.
The Byrums live in Onondaga, but the son attends Mason High School under Michigan's Schools of Choice law.
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