Five former students have filed a federal lawsuit against Holland Public Schools in Michigan, alleging school officials failed to protect them from a sexual predator.
According to the lawsuit, five years before Jonathon King Meyer was arrested for sexually abusing male students, a student who heard about the abuse informed school officials and the officials ignored the complaint.
Meyer, who was a youth group leader at Christ Memorial Church in Holland and a leader at Young Life, denied the student’s allegations.
Meyer returned to his job as a lunchroom supervisor at Holland’s West Middle School.
The suit claims that there was a female student who made a complaint against Meyer, present when school officials confronted Meyer about the allegations. The student was subsequently reprimanded for making the complaint. According to the suit, she kept quiet for a while after that, but confided to a friend’s mother in 2011. The mother, a mandatory child abuse reporter, told the police that Meyer was sexually abusing boys. They arrested him in January 2012.
Meyer was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was in prison for six years before getting released in 2018.
In court documents commenting about school officials, attorney for the plaintiffs, Jeffrey Buckman said, “Individual and collective failures to report Meyer in 2006 further endangered the Plaintiffs and other child victims who continued to be sexually assaulted, abused, and molested for years following the report.”
The lawsuit alleges that the schools and youth groups painted Meyers as a “role model, mentor, safe and trustworthy person in faith-based programs specifically aimed at adolescent minors.”
“Meyer used his position of authority, as well as the resources available to him through Young Life, Christ Memorial and Holland Public Schools, to recruit, manipulate, coerce and intimidate his victims,” the suit adds.
The lawsuit says that the victims were assaulted at youth group events at different places, including Meyer’s home, his storage unit, the church’s youth center and a van. He allegedly told them that it’s normal to masturbate together and have sex with each other.
The suit argues that the abuse traumatized the victims and devastated their families. One of the plaintiffs suffered “extreme mental and emotional anguish resulting from anxiety, depression, sleep issues, social isolation and a general adjustment disorder.” He also had suicidal thoughts.
The other victims also had trouble developing normal relationships and have had suicidal thoughts.