'It's unacceptable'

Parents and community members expressed frustration and sought answers about race-related incidents at Grand Haven High School during a sparsely attended forum at the school Tuesday night.
Krystle Wagner
Mar 27, 2013

 

About 40 parents, other members of the community and school district staff attended the forum led by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

The high school is being investigated by local agencies and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights following incidents involving KKK-like apparel and a racial slur written on a school bus.

To read what we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the racism investigation, CLICK HERE.

During the forum, Grand Haven senior Hannah Hughes questioned why programs addressing racism didn’t start sooner. She said she first heard about the incidents more than five months ago.

Since news broke of the ongoing investigations, Hughes said she has become sickened by the responses of peers who have become fixated on being associated with racial incidents.

“I don’t even want to tell people this is my school,” said Hughes, 18.

The incidents infuriated Grand Haven resident Vicki Lynn Nelson. She demanded to know why they continued for four or five months before the community became informed. Nelson said actions weren’t taken quickly enough and questioned if that’s what her tax dollars went toward.

“I’m so stunned,” she said with anger in her voice. “Why has this gone on for months? Why is this auditorium so empty?”

As community members expressed concerns about programming and ongoing efforts to promote positive behavior, Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska said the district is working with the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance to create additional programming.

Embrace is a program recently formed as a joint effort for the community to join together over the issue.

“It’s time for everyone to stand up and be part of a solution,” Konarska said.

Tammie Hughes, a mother of children in Grand Haven schools, said the issue needs to spread beyond the high school because the hatred is learned somewhere. The Grand Haven resident called for administrators to hand out stiffer punishments because students should learn their mouths are weapons — just like guns or knives.

“It’s unacceptable for anybody to be treated this way,” Hughes said.

Lisa Hall, mother of biracial student Katie Bridgeforth who was harassed on a school bus, said she has been touched by the community’s support. However, Hall said the district needs to “step up to the plate” and take action.

Hall also called for strict punishment for the perpetrators.

“The psychological damage to my daughter will never go away,” she said.

While some parents said they want more action from the school district, Brian Wheeler, a contracted technology employee for Grand Haven schools, said it will take more than the school to make a change.

Wheeler, who lives in Muskegon, said there’s a deep reason he hasn’t moved into the Grand Haven community, although he has worked for the school system for more than a dozen years. Wheeler said he has two sons enrolled in the district, and his heart goes out to the parents and families going through the incidents, as he understands the importance of having his children feel safe.

Although Wheeler said there’s room for improvement in the district, it goes beyond the walls to make a difference.

“It’s going to take a community,” he said.

Comments

stopblockingmya...

What a waste of time. Someone please explain to me how this forum helped anything. I am telling you this stuff has and will continue on.

papa bear

If they don't like it they can go to muskegon school's

sirhansalot

Papa bear , People like you are the reason the tri-cities has issue.

papa bear

I didn't mean it like that'I simply meant that they should take their hatred elsewhere

sirhansalot

cool man

donna282

the only people who needed to be there were the students involved and their parents. they are the ones that need the bad behavior training. why does so many people assume because these high school students were racist that the entire community is too. Some of the incidents took place in the high school cafeteria. Why didnt any of the other students speak up then??? You can have all the programs and training you want, but if people choose to walk away or ignore the bad behavior then it wont stop.

justpondering

I agree a waste of time and it isn’t a tri-cities issue. It’s a worldwide issue that has been going on for centuries and will continue, until people start respecting others and their beliefs.

rukidding

"Why is this auditorium so empty?” Basically because this has been blown waaaaaaaay out of proportion; old this is, interested we are not. Lisa, your 15 minutes of fame have expired long ago; give it a rest already.

Peter56

"Its unacceptable" Duh There is a touchy feely aspect to this that belies justice. Deal with the kids and get them gone. Then send the racist to Muskegon and see how they fare.

Peter56

"Its unacceptable" Duh There is a touchy feely aspect to this that belies justice. Deal with the kids and get them gone. Then send the racist to Muskegon and see how they fare.

lakeview

It's so sad, however it is in our community. My child attend the Christian school in our community and in second grade was questioned on the color of skin. Why didn't they take a shower, their skin was still brown...? The class would be invited to birthday parties and was the only child not invited. As Mr. Wheeler said it will take a long time to change, it's not bred in the schools it's at home in their families...the same ones that go to church on Sunday. Why is it that so many never leave this area...it's not because of the lakes...it's the sheltered, unworldly, insensitive community. It's really not the real world make up...however these same families take mission trips to help others, yet they don't have compassion for differences in their community. Alot to think about. I commend GHAPS school for attempting to make a difference...

askeasy

From what I have heard the students were punished by the school for their "behavior". We are currently only hearing one side of the story. I hope everyone is keeping in mind that there are 2 sides to every story, like, what was said by both students that prompted the slurs? The other side of the story probably can't comment to defend themselves due to the investigation. Investigations do take time and I believe the school is "stepping up" to help with the "issue". However, is there really an issue or is this just being blown up out of proportion? I know I would really like to see something else in the paper other this topic. Let the investigation pursue before making your decision on whether this is truly an "issue" in the community or the schools. I hope the victims are getting some guidance on how to deal with these "issues" in a positive manner to make them stronger individuals that will make a difference in the community rather than making them feel "uncomfortable" to live here.

pike84

OK, I'm getting more and more pissed. Can we even start to list all of the great things about Grand Haven? OK now list all the great things the schools have accomplished? Science Olympiad! US News and World Report great school, Newsweek great school! Constantly ranked A from the State of Michigan. More sports teams than most schools, more clubs than most schools, more parent participation than most schools, best teachers hands down than most schools!!!
Then some kids say some awful things, and they were awful and suddenly everyone forgets all the good things. Well I'm not GH is great place to raise a family and they have great schools with great teachers and great administrators. I won't turn my back on them or the community. Shame on people for trying to throw the administrators and teachers under the bus. I won't do that. Some kids made some extremely poor choices and are being penalized for it. It's over, done with. MOVE ON!!

sirhansalot

The school has and still does very little to support the students of diversity. They talk the talk and say all the right things to the media ect…but still do very little to institute any change. A school can have a lot of great things going for it but that does not mean it is an environment inclusive for all. The message from the school system is look the other way and act like nothing is happing and hopes that the student of diversity will not be here for very long and all will be alright in the future. They had a bigger campaign about texting and driving then they did about diversity in school.

pike84

Is that what we call students now "students of diversity"? What the hell buddy.

sirhansalot

It is anbody other then white.....Its a big world pike84 get out and see it ... oh by the way please take me off your "buddy"list

Wiseone

VERY well said, Pike84! I totally agree!!!!

BTL2A

Seems like there is always a "send them to Muskegon comment". Why sould we assume people of Muskegon would even waste their breathe on ignorant white kids. Seems like people assume there would be street justice.
Say a black person said something racist to a white person in Muskegon...if that black person came to Grand Haven would there be a mob waiting to beat that kid up?

People are funny

I know from experience that one of the girls is not the sweet victim she's made out to be. I don't condone racism in any way but when people are angry with another person some will find the easiest way to insult them and if it's another race a racial epitaph can be a way to insult them. My son was sprayed with ketchup from one of them because he was in her seat during lunch. He's shy and quiet kid
and would never say a racist comment and just got up and called home to get a shower to get ketchup out of his hair and a change of clothes. He didn't even want her to get in trouble but, I could see how other students could say something inappropriate to insult her in retaliation.

sirhansalot

Nice work people are funny .....attack the victim... wow

pike84

You mean attack the "Student of Diversity" don't you?

sirhansalot

Pike84 try to keep up here...
yes that would mean a student of diversity was attacked

pike84

Oh I'm keeping up trust me it's not hard. I'm just trying to figure out when they started calling high school students "students of diversity"? Is this something you made up or is that in school handbook?

MegaMillion

It's you who needs to keep up sirhansalot. Being non-white doesn't mean you get a free ticket to act rude and nasty towards others and expect to be treated with respect in return. If you act like a jerk, expect others to treat you like a jerk. This girl, regardless of her skin color, appears to bring on some of the negativity that has been directed at her. You're so proud of your open-mindedness that you are blind to the facts.

sirhansalot

Megamillion, have you had any interaction with the victim? Or are making your judgement based on a what 1 person told you or you read somewhere. Yes i have a very open mind and allow all types of learning to take place ...do you still keep a open mind.

People are funny

If I would have seen her the day I went to pick my son up from school I would have had some choice words for her. They wouldn't have been racial but they wouldn't have been very nice and as I said for some people the easiest way to upset her as much as they are in a similar situation could be a racial slur.

sirhansalot

Pike 84 Keep your focus .......you will keep stumbling over your moll hills and you will never reach the mountain you seek.

pike84

Wow that was insightful; however I'm not looking for a mountain. Maybe that's the problem with this whole issue...people like you are making a mountain out of moll hill?

jvanabbema

I grew up in Grand Haven, went to Grand Haven Christian for nine years, met my beautiful Korean Wife at Calvin College, and lived in Grand Rapids for almost 20 years before moving back to Grand Haven to start a family. According to some people, this isn't even possible...

Growing up in Grand Haven I VERY seldom saw or interacted with anyone other than "white people", most of whom were of Dutch heritage. Today our community is no where near as diverse as, say Ann Arbor, but it has changed. I have four sons going to Grand Haven Public Schools and participating in local sports like soccer, football, baseball, etc. I see diversity. Yes, there are blonde kids running everywhere, but my dark-haired kids don't stand out like they may have 20 or 30 years ago. The very fact that we are dealing with this issue is a statement as to the changes that have taken place; without at least some diversity, there can be no conversation.

I love our community; it may not be perfect, but it is a special place to live. And I choose to live here for many reasons, the lake being only one of them. Let's continue to grow, learn, and accept the differences that make us all unique. I believe and hope that by the time my kids have kids of their own, perhaps even more ethnically diverse than they themselves are, that some of them will also choose to live here in this wonderful community called Grand Haven.

sirhansalot

right on

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