Sommers Schwartz attorney Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller negotiated a confidential settlement on behalf of eight young women who alleged they were sexually assaulted and harassed by Metro Detroit choir teacher Jason Debandt.
Surviving On-Campus Sexual Abuse
Debandt, who taught music and theater arts at various area schools, camps, and churches, faces charges of criminal sexual misconduct. Prosecutors say he engaged in a disturbing pattern of “‘grooming’… students by sharing his phone number, buying them gifts, and talking to them on Snapchat.” As described in a previous post, Debandt’s harassment and assaults in the Clarenceville School system span from 2009 to 2018.
An investigation into Debandt’s wrongdoing shows he targeted girls who had experienced the death of a parent or had difficult home lives. Debandt showed favoritism and special attention to these students, including encouraging them to spend time in his office alone and taking them out for seemingly date nights. He created opportunities to brush up against them with his groin and touch their inner thighs, arms, and buttocks. Debandt offered them jobs cleaning his house and communicated with them privately via Snapchat and Telegram, apps that quickly deleted illicit texts, naked pictures of his genitals, and videos of him masturbating.
Obtaining Justice and Compensation for Survivors
Ms. Esser-Weidenfeller, along with associate attorney Elaina Bailey and shareholders Robert Sickels and Andrew Kochanowski, aggressively pursued the accusations, ultimately securing an undisclosed financial settlement with the Clarenceville School District that compensates each of their clients.
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