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Ann Arbor elementary school principal placed on leave in wake of WXYZ investigation

Posted at 1:36 PM, Aug 22, 2023

(WXYZ) — In the wake of a 7 Action News investigation, an Ann Arbor elementary school principal has been placed on leave, according to an email sent to parents. The 7 Investigators first showed you how a bus aide was caught on video assaulting a special needs 7-year-old child on a school bus. The child attended Carpenter Elementary, and a lawsuit against the district alleges the school principal and others in the district knew about the assault for 5 weeks before the child’s mother was told.

The bus aide was recently criminally convicted of 4th degree child abuse.

School bus assault | Heather Catallo

Late Monday, an email was sent to Carpenter Elementary families that says Principal Michael Johnson is on leave and will be absent from the school as students head back to class next week. Johnson, the school district, and bus company Durham Transportation are all named in the lawsuit.

The email about the leave to parents from Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift says, “We understand that our parents may have questions, and while we are uncertain of any specific timelines, we will, as always, continue to keep you updated as allowed.”

The email says “Ms. Crystal Fluker, an experienced AAPS school leader with strong ties in our Ann Arbor community, will serve as Interim Principal at Carpenter.”

Superintendent Swift has come under fire since the 7 Investigators first aired the story about the bus assault on July 27. The story prompted a group of nearly 100 parents to send a letter to the Superintendent, demanding her resignation for this incident and other issues. The letter states “many of our special education families have not felt safe in our district for some time.” The letter also references allegations of “a racially hostile environment in our schools” and concerns about “an overall lack of leadership in addressing in antisemitic incidents.”

Ann Arbor School Board may remove superintendent

On August 7, the Ann Arbor School Board voted 4-3 to send the superintendent a pre-termination notice that’s required by her contract. They also voted to allow their attorney to enter into negotiations for a separation agreement with Dr. Swift. No decision on Swift’s employment status has been made, according to board members.

“Based on the concerns, based on what I’ve heard, there should be a change in leadership,” said AAPS board president Rima Mohammad at the August 7 meeting.

The board meets Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The meeting has moved to Skyline High School to accommodate an expected large crowd.

Last month, the AAPS Director of Communications issued this statement about the bus incident:

"The safety of students and staff is always the top priority of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Staff at Carpenter Elementary and the transportation team followed appropriate procedures in responding to this unfortunate incident. AAPS and Durham Transportation team removed the offending individual from duty on the day the incident was observed on the video and contacted Child Protective Services immediately. There was no delay in removing the individual from duty, and AAPS and Durham teams dutifully followed through on this case up to and including a member of the Durham staff testifying at a hearing in recent weeks.”