BY: Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller | IN: Firm News, Sexual Assault
Throughout his teaching career, Debandt, now age 41, has taught music and theater arts, most recently at North Farmington High School and possibly Power Middle School. He has also been involved with choir and theater programs at Troy Athens High School, Madison High School, Crescent Academy, Summit Academy, the University of Michigan’s Summer Vocal Academy of Music, and Christ Church Cranbrook.
Most of the young women who have come forward against Debandt to date participated in middle and high school choir and theater programs in the Clarenceville School District. Debandt’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults in the Clarenceville system span from 2009 to 2018; the youngest of the survivors was a 13-year-old middle school student at the time of his misconduct. Another survivor alleges to have been sexually assaulted by Debandt in 2005 when she was a 16-year-student at Troy Athens.
Specific details are common among the survivors’ stories, details that show how Debandt targeted and began grooming the young female students.
As students, many survivors were experiencing the loss of a parent, were children or divorcing parents, or endured tumultuous lives at home. They say Debandt started his grooming by showing them extra attention, making them his special students, and giving them special privileges. The young women claim he would encourage them to spend time in his office during lunch hours, breaks between classes, and even when they were supposed to be in class.
Debandt made sexually suggestive and explicit comments about the way each female student dressed and the way clothes looked on their bodies. He told each girl how she made him feel. Debandt found ways to brush up against them with his groin and touch their inner thighs, arms, and low backs, and many survivors recall him constantly adjusting an erection in his pants.
Off campus, Debandt invited these teenage girls to clean his house when they wanted to earn extra money. He shared his personal cell phone number and instructed them to contact him only through apps like Snapchat and Telegram. When he sent them illicit texts, naked pictures of his penis, and videos of him masturbating, these platforms quickly deleted the content from the devices.
Sommers Schwartz attorneys Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller and Elaina Bailey currently represent eight of Debandt’s survivors.
After a flurry of social media activity from parents accusing Debandt of sexual misconduct, the Farmington School District placed him on paid administrative leave. The district issued a statement indicating that its Human Resources Department initiated an internal review and referred the matter to appropriate agencies.
If you or a loved one were subjected to sexual assault, sexual harassment, or inappropriate conduct by Jason Debandt or another teacher, instructor, or coach, please contact Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller and Elaina Bailey at Sommers Schwartz for a free and confidential discussion about your story and your rights.
We are here. We will listen. We will believe you.
Photo Credit: Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons
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Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller focuses her practice on medical malpractice, automobile negligence, and general negligence litigation on behalf injured plaintiffs.