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As of March 26, 2018



Prior to Sep 27, 2016

Evan had no issues at school—he was an A/B student, never cried or showed any signs of distress.  He was a good student, always prepared, never in trouble at school or otherwise.  He would get picked on for his weight from time to time from the usual types of bullies found in every middle school.  He would tell us about it when it got to him, but he pretty much shook it off and considered those kids to not be worth the effort to even speak about.



Tuesday Sep 27 2016

Evan had an altercation another student—Evan was struck, slapped, punched and spit upon.   Evan did not retaliate—this was documented by the principal and validated by other students as well.



Wednesday Sep 28 2016

Evan received an in school suspension.  Emails were exchanged asking about how to be sure he had homework and so forth.


The boy that struck him received in school suspension…this despite the fact that the school policy clearly says that students that strike others are to be given out of school suspension.    We were not aware that he was not given out of school suspension until Evan came home that night.  Evan told us that the principal Susan Gillings told him quote “sometimes you just have to let this stuff go”.  


Evan told us this boy has had other suspensions and that the principal was not being fair and following the rules—he was very upset.


On this date Evan's mother had a phone conversation that lasted at least 20 minutes with the associate principal, Mona Kay Woodhams.  Evan’s mom explained that he was struggling to fit in, had been fat shamed in school from time to time, was drifting from his regular friends and was starting to hang out with two other boys that were not part of the soccer or lacrosse teams.  Associate Principal Woodhams told her she did not know Evan but would keep an eye on him and agreed to call us if she observed anything out of the ordinary.   That’s it – Woodhams did not in any way tell us of any restrictions on her ability to discuss Evan with any of his teachers.   She never mentioned anything about a confidentiality agreement.   She concluded the conversation with “thank you for sharing” and statements that she would let us know if she saw anything with Evan.  Pay attention to this person as she is key to what happens on October 10. 




Thursday Sep 29 2016

Evans father sent the principal an email at 827am demanding an explanation as to why the child that struck Evan was not given mandatory out of school suspension.  He explained that he thought that this is part of the anti-bullying zero-tolerance policy at that school, there is to be no wavering on that fact, even if the child that was struck first strikes back in defense, the defending child also gets out of school suspension. 


The request for an explanation was ignored—we received no communication from the principal either by email or phone.  The Superintendent Cook told us that “we didn’t really ask for a response” but the email is very clear and can be found on the Email page of this website. 


That evening at dinner I told Evan I was going to the school Friday and planned to get to the bottom of why he had suspension and this kid that struck him, slapped and spit on him was not given out of school suspension.  Evan begged me to not go in, he told me that he would just ignore the kid.  He also went on at length about how he felt that Principal Gillings was protecting this other kid.  He told me that she was known throughout the school for showing favoritism and deciding who to punish and whom to let go.  I have no idea, I could only take his word for it. 


I agreed to not go in or to communicate to her further on this matter, and I kept my promise to Evan, which I will regret to the end of my days as I look back on it now it was clear that principal Gillings had broken the trust that should exist between a student and the principal.


Fri Sep 30 thru Friday Oct 7 2016

Normal -nothing out of the ordinary.  Each day we had was completely normal, Evan did his homework, prepared for tests, did his chores.

Saturday Oct 8 2016

On Saturday October 8 Evan spent the day with his dad along with a friend of his.  We were together all day, going to the club to exercise, swim and do sports.  On that day, at approximately 315pm (according to Meridian Township Police) the two boys that he had been gravitating to got into an unlocked vehicle in Haslett and stole some cigarettes.  The police said no property was taken other than cigarettes.  

Despite what some people have been saying, Evan was not present—he was with me the entire day.

That evening (according to the police)  around 545pm Evan began exchanging text messages with one of the boys, assuming that it was indeed his friend.   Instead it was the mother who had taken this boys phone and used it to pretend to be her son in an attempt to find out what else might have been going on. 

Sunday Oct 9 2016

Evan continued to exchange text messages with who he thought was his friend.  The police said that at some point in time a photograph of some marijuana was sent by Evan, the police do not know how that was received.  What matters here is that it is clear that Evan and these boys had been smoking pot something that we had no idea about.  We had checked his phone from time to time as a normal course of general prudence.  Evan never displayed any abnormal behavior, he played at the park, rode his bike, he did his chores and so forth.  We never saw any messages that would have triggered us to know that he had been experimenting with pot.

Monday Oct 10 2016

On Monday, October 10 I took Evan to school like I do every day of the year.  He had a math test that day, and as usual was fully prepared, having taken summer classes to qualify for the advanced math.  He has always been prepared for his math tests, and every other test for that matter, and his grades are a testament to that fact.


From what the Meridian Township Police told us the mother of the boy that had been impersonating her son told him that she was going to call Evans parents and tell them what has been going on. She never called or contacted either of us, as Evan’s parents we had no idea what had transpired that weekend or had any clue about the text messages that had been exchanged.


At some point early in the school day, we assume during the initial attendance meeting of the 8th graders Evan interacted with one or both of the boys he had befriended.  


1st period / gym (substitute teacher)-Evan begins crying / His classmates take notice


2nd period / biology (substitute teacher) Continues to cry according to some of his classmates


3rd period / language arts (Laura Allen) Evan cried so hard in this class that his teacher took him into the hallway three times according to superintendent Cooks report to us.  This teacher finally gave Evan an “all day hall pass” to allow him free roam of the halls.  Cook told us he was informed that the teacher told him he could use this pass to move around the school without fear of being disciplined. 


What Cook fails to answer is how is it possible that such a pass could be given to a student without the teacher informing the guidance counselor, the principal or assistant principal.  Cook still has no response to those questions other than to tell us that each child is dealt with individually. We have yet to hear any type of response from the board about how such events are allowed to transpire without administrative knowledge and parental contact. 



4th period / Spanish (Christopher Luea) – Kids told us Evan was visibly upset in this class too.  We were told that Evan was asked by a teacher if he wanted to take his test in the hallway because he was so upset, but we cannot find out if it was this class or another one. 


Noon / Lunch – Evan continued to cry at the table and was unable to eat, we don’t know if any staff interacted with him. 


However, during lunchtime the teachers talked about him in detail - the fact that Evan had been crying in class was discussed by teachers that had him in class already and those that were yet to see him that day (5th and 6th period).  We were informed of this fact by way of an email that was sent to us at the end of the day by his his 6th grade teacher, Brookhouse.


So it is clear that Evan was in distress, observed by these teachers, given hall passes, taken out of class and put back in again, discussed at noon, and still not a single one of these professionals thought that the parents should be contacted or that this child should be sent to the office to see a counselor?



5th period / Social Studies (Ben Pineda) From what we are told, this teacher interacted with Evan who had such red puffy eyes that when he asked Evan what was up Evan told him he had bad allergies. The superintendent did not give us much more feedback other than this.



6th period / Algebra (Stephanie Brookhouse

At 148pm an email was sent to Eric Thompson  from Ms Brookhouse—contents of that email are on the bottom of this web page.  This email described how Evan was discussed at noon during a “team meeting” as she described it, and that Evan was so upset that he could not get to work.  This email is at the bottom of this web page. She did not call us, she did not send Evan to the office or school counselor, despite being made aware of this condition earlier in the day and observing his behavior in class.  


We later learned that Evan never even filled in a single answer on that test -- a class that he was an A/B student in, yet Brookhouse did not call us or send him to the office.

At the end of the day, 215 pm, Evan was let out of school with everyone else.

No attempt was made to hold him and have us contacted.





As it turns out--there is NO policy or procedure for handling distressed students, we were told by the superintendent that they just send the kids to the office and let the secretaries decide what to do!  But teachers decide on a case by case basis if the child should be sent – there is no guideline, nothing!

​Oct 11-15 2016

​We had a constant stream of students, classmates, team mates, parents and friends come to our home.  We learned from Evans classmates that "everyone" as the kids told us, knew that something was drastically wrong with Evan, a kid who had never before cried yet on that day was inconsolable all day.  Students told us that they spoke with teachers, some told us teachers asked them what was wrong with Evan.  It was clear to us that these teachers knew something was very wrong with Evan yet not one of them sent him to the office or to the guidance counselor or told the principal or assistant principal to have us contacted.


​Saturday Oct 16 2016

​We held a memorial for Evan with over 600 people in attendance.  So many that there was no place to sit.  Hundreds of parents and students told us of how they could simply not understand why nobody at the school contacted us.  

​Not once in October did anyone from the school attempt to contact us to discuss what happened with Evan. 


​Nov 2016

​Not once in November did anyone from the school reach out to us to.


Dec 12 2016

​Finally, after two months of silence from the school we went to the board accompanied by over 50 local residents and used the five minute public comment time period to tell them what had happened.  We expected after making our plea to them to find out what happened that someone would contact us. We were wrong—NOTHING happened – it was as if Evan never existed and they simply did not acknowledge his loss, or felt that the school had any reason to answer our pleas for answers.



Dec 13 - Jan 9 2017 we heard nothing from the board.   So we sent them a letter demanding a meeting and not until Eric went to the January board meeting was the letter even acknowledged.  When Eric presented the letter and asked Chris Coady, board president why this had not been entered into the minutes she tried to use the excuse that "not everyone has had a chance to read it yet" which is not the protocol as she never even acknowledged that a letter had been received. 

Jan 27 2017

​We finally got a meeting with Superintendent Cook and he brought Assistant Superintendent Sherren Jones.  We presented a list of questions that we wanted answers to.  Those questions are detailed in the letters page of this web site.  One of the most salient facts is that Eric asked Sherren Jones if she thought that the assistant principal should have shared information with the teachers about the conversation that she had with Evan's mom.  Ms Jones responded that "yes, I would expect that to be shared"

There was NO mention of any type of confidentiality agreement!  If such a restriction existed certainly the Superintendent AND the Assistant superintendent would surely know of it -- yet not a word was said!  We were told our questions would be taken back for research and answers would be forthcoming.  



Fri Feb 10 2017

​We met again with Superintendent Cook and Assistant Superintendent Jones to review the answers to the questions posed January 27.  The most important detail that came from that meeting was the insistence that there as a confidentiality policy that prevented the assistant principal from talking to teachers about Evan !  Not only that but we pressed him for details on why we were not told by Woodhams that she would not be able to speak to anyone without our consent and he stood mute -- he literally did not answer and neither did Sherren Jones who never spoke in the meeting at all!  


He told us there is no procedure for handling emotionally distressed students, but that in those situations the child would be sent to the office and the secretaries would decide if the parents should be called!  Additionally, we learned that there is no standard process to always send every kid to the office—he told us that it was case by case basis and that is why nobody sent Evan to the office – it is up to the teacher to decide what to do!

Then Evan's mom asked how a child could cry all day and the parents not be contacted about it.  Superintendent Steve Cook then told her "there are 600 kids in that school and a lot of them cry". 


This was a devastating statement to absorb, we were totally stunned and Evan's mom broke down right there in the room.  This man just sat there stone faced and watched her cry and scream.  We were totally devastated and he just sat there, emotionless.  Sherren Jones, assistant superintendent, didn’t even look up from the table – she just stared at her feet.



Mon Feb 13, 2017

The following Monday, Eric called the assistant superintendent Sherren Jones and challenged her to tell him where the confidentiality agreement form existed, where were instructions for parents to follow to fill one out, where is the procedure for staff to inform parents that such an agreement was in place and so forth.  She responded that there is no documentation for parents to access and would not answer further other than to tell me "I have to support my staff"  


This is when we realized just how deeply flawed the leadership at Haslett public schools really was and how they can literally just fabricate things and not be held accountable for them.  There is nowhere for a citizen to go – schools have absolute immunity, which allows them (outside of criminal acts) to pretty much say and do what they want.


Obviously there is no confidentiality agreement, it does not exist, but Jones did not tell us that we were mistaken or that we did not hear Superintendent Cook correctly, instead she just told us that she was sorry.  Why when I asked her about where should we go to get information did she not tell us that we were mistaken if we “mistook” what Cook said?  The answer is that we did not mistake it and Cook presented this to us in a feeble attempt to provide cover for associate principal Woodhams who was ultimately responsible for communicating parental concerns to teaching staff, under the guidance and supervision of principal Gillings and assistant superintendent Jones.



Feb 23, 2017

We sent a letter to the board describing what we were told by the Superintendent and asked them to meet with us individually or as a group to tell us if they agreed with him and still supported him.


Mar 10, 2017

We received a letter from the board telling us to no longer write to them, and communicate only with the Superintendent.  This letter made no sense as we were attempting to complain to the board about the superintendent himself, yet they referred all communication by us to him and told us to no longer communicate with the board.  This is in direct violation of their own board policy 9130, which clearly describes a procedure for filing written complaints about the superintendent directly to the board.


We were NOT told of any procedure to follow to get our questions of THEM answered, we were doubting the superintendent, but they told us that we have to go to him to get our doubts resolved.  It doesn't work that way -- the board hired him, they should answer for his behavior--otherwise there is no recourse!  It seems that there actually is a process that needs to be followed to get questions answered, but it must be in the form of a complaint -which the board DID NOT tell us about.  We believe that the board president and the board, collectively, do not understand their own policies and procedures, and either willfully or out of pure ignorance informed us to no longer communicate with them directly regarding Evan.

The week of June 17, 2017

We learned from an acquaintance that on a day during the last week of school all of Evan's classmates had a memorial for him at the school, had made t-shirts with the symbol #B4E on them and dedicated a page in the yearbook to him.  We had no idea that this had taken place and we later learned that some parents asked teachers why we were not in attendance.  We were informed that teachers told these parents that they had asked administration if we should be invited and were told to not include us.  


Jun 28, 2017

We decided to take the letter that we received from the board in March 2017 to Senator Curtis Hertel to tell him our story of how we were treated by the school board and the superintendent, and relay to him the story of this confidentiality agreement, lack of procedure or policy and the insistence by the superintendent that nobody really knew Evan was in serious distress.  Senator Hertel then reached out to the board president Susan Coady and Superintendent cook to arrange a joint meeting in his office.  This was done because instead of informing us of any restrictions for citizens to meet with the board as a violation of the open meetings act, she simply told us it was “inappropriate” to meet.  In fact, it is completely legal for a citizen to have a private discussion with an elected board member, it is only when a private meeting of a group of board members is not allowed.  We were very clear in our letter to them in January to meet with them individually or as a group. 

Shortly thereafter we received a letter from board president Chris Coady that she "had heard we wanted to open a dialogue after (she had been) speaking with Senator Hertel" as if she was totally ignorant of the very letter she penned to us on March 10 2017 but this is in keeping with her style of communication.  She knew we wanted to talk to the board, obviously because we went in person to a board meeting and presented the letter, demanding to have board actions taken to investigate what superintendent Cook said to us. 



Jan 21, 2018

Finally, fully one year after we had meetings with Superintendent Cook and assistant superintendent Jones, and after we had sent letters to the board complaining about the superintendent and his responses to us, we were granted a meeting hosted by senator Curtis Hertel with board president Coady and Superintendent Cook.


The purpose of this meeting was for us, as Evan’s parents, to speak face to face with the board president, and get her response to the letter we had sent to the board detailing the responses by Superintendent Cook to our inquiries about what transpired on October 10, 2016.  The entire agenda was to ask her to respond to those questions. 


That is not what transpired in the meeting.


Instead we were told by board president Coady that “the Haslett board of education supports our entire staff and we believe that each and every day they do their very best.  As board president I am not legally allowed to comment on any specific question about a student.”


She used this tag line to answer, or evade answering almost every question we posed.  We asked her if the board was responsible for hiring the superintendent in an attempt to establish a basis for reiterating aspects of our letter to them as it pertains to the character of the superintendent based on his dismissive responses to our questions that had been posed over a year ago. 


Susan Coady did not answer this question without serious prodding and cajoling by senator Hertel, nor would she clearly answer our question about how the board evaluates the superintendent’s performance and if the board can dismiss the superintendent.  She hemmed and hawed and danced around attempting to use very careful legal language but eventually we actually got her to confirm that yes indeed the board selects, hires, reviews and can fire the superintendent if they wish. 


This is the basis of our desire to file a formal complaint with the board -- we want Cook gone, based entirely on lack of character.  He has done nothing illegal, but his failure to be forthcoming to us with answers, to fabricate a story about Woodhams having been a guidance counselor 6 years prior to becoming assistant principal and still being bound by confidentiality as an excuse for her to not inform teachers, his outrageous statements to a grieving mother not 3 months after the death of her child that “there are 600 kids… and a lot of them cry” all form the basis of our complaint. 


In our view, this man has no moral fiber and should not be in a position of leadership within a school district.  We stand by this position not based on bias, but based on the very things he said to us over the past year.




Feb 20, 2018

In January, Eric was approached by the Haslett Lacrosse Head Coach asking Eric to come back to coach the JV program, the team that Evan would have been on. He accepted the invitation, but was told in February that the Athletic Director, Darin Ferguson, required that Eric apply for the position and interview.  Eric had been the Haslett former head JV lacrosse coach for two years when Evan was too young to play, as well as an assistant varsity coach for two years at Haslett as well.  Once Evan was in 5th grade, Eric left varsity to move to the youth program to help coach up the boys with the goal to coach with them all the way through high school.  After Evan passed away, Eric did not coach the team in 2017, but was excited to come back and finish what he had started so many years ago. 


Eric was not given the JV coaching position, he was told that he was “not the right fit at this time” by the Athletic Director when he was pressed for a reason as to why. 


This was without a doubt one of the cruelest acts ever perpetrated on our family.  Eric specifically asked the head lacrosse coach if in any way was his complaints against the superintendent and the middle school staff going to cause an issue with this JV coaching position – the answer was “no” – there would be no conflict.


So why is it that a coach that has 50 years of actual playing experience, 10 years of coaching experience, played in high school in New York, played for SUNY-Cortland, a national championship team, and continues to play today in an adult masters league was not chosen in favor of a coach that played 4 years of high school lacrosse and was actually coached by Eric on the JV and varsity squads?  Are we to believe that the AD was not influenced by what was going on with the superintendent? 



It is our view as parents, and based on our personal experience that the Haslett school system has a serious cultural issue.  This is something we have said publicly in board meetings and specifically in writing to the board as a group and verbally to Superintendent Cook, assistant superintendent Jones and board president Coady.


Cooks “findings” as he reported to us in February of 2017 was that he conducted research and asked many people and concluded that our opinion was unfounded – he asserted that there is no such problem in the Haslett middle school.  Does this sound familiar?


This sentiment was echoed in June of 2018 by board president Coady when we met with Senator Hertel, insisting that “the board supports the staff of Haslett schools and they come each day doing their very best”.


Our view?  If the bar for the “best” that the middle school staff can do is give my son an all day hall pass when he demonstrates aberrant behavior by crying in class, if their “best” is to talk about him collectively during their lunch, but not have the common sense to have us called, if their “best” is to observe him unable to even work on his class assignment but take time to send us an email just before the end of the day to “speak to him that night” then surely this school has a serious cultural issue.


All we have received is statements from the superintendent that his staff responded according to their best interpretation of events.


The board unflinchingly supports the school staff – the board also supports Cook, who had the unmitigated gall to tell a grieving mother that “there are 600 kids in that school and a lot of them cry”.  What other evidence do you need to show the true character of the man that is the senior leader of our school system? 


How many of you, since Evan has passed, have had issues with Principal Gillings, or Associate Principal Mona Kay Woodhams, or Superintendent Cook as it relates to how your child situations in school have been handled?


Has this new “training” that Cook announced at the beginning of the 2017 school year shown you any change in behavior by the administration in the middle school or the superintendent’s office?  Are your calls being returned, your emails being responded to, your letters being acknowledged?


Bad things happen when people in positions of authority cover for those that are not doing what is reasonably expected of them.  When we hear both Cook and Coady speak it seems that everything with them and their language is so “legal-esque” that it smacks of being coached. 


Our view of how Cook and Coady have treated us as we asked for accountability for the actions of the staff preceding and on the day of Evan’s death is that unless they are personally witness it, it never happened. 


Someone should tell them that if a tree falls in the woods it will make a sound, even if they are not there.

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