Racism case closed, but changes required at GHAPS

The federal investigation into a series of race-related incidents at Grand Haven High School has ended.
Krystle Wagner
Jun 1, 2013

 

Prior to the conclusion of a U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigation into incidents of KKK-like apparel and racial slurs at the high school, the Grand Haven Area Public Schools district entered a resolution agreement. The agreement outlines specific steps the district will take to resolve the situation now and appropriately handle situations in the future.

Among the things the district must do includes:

*Paying for counseling through June 2014 for two students at the heart of the racially-motivated incidents.

*Keeping these two students separate from any other students alleged to have harassed them.

*Providing additional staff supervision in areas, such as the bus lane and cafeteria, where racial harassment allegedly took place.

*Designating a district staff member who is responsible for handling any other suspected incidents of harassment, and for coordinating implementation of the school’s other remedies.

*Sending letters by June 1 to the parents of all students regarding racial harassment and information about the district’s policies.

*Submitting a copy of the school’s revised racial discrimination and harassment policies and procedures to the federal agency for approval.

-----------See PDF of agreement and letters below story-----------

The Office for Civil Rights will continue to monitor the district. If the district fails to meet the outlined steps, the investigation will re-open and the agency will take appropriate action to ensure the district’s compliance.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools entered into this agreement voluntarily. Superintendent Keith Konarska said the district had been in conversations with investigators about different opportunities and services the district could provide.

Konarska said they feel the agreement is an option that improves the district’s services and benefits students.

“Our hope is, through this very difficult and challenging situation, very positive things can result from it,” he said.

To assist with this endeavor, the district has hired Brian Wheeler as a diversity facilitator to be the point person for concerns or questions about racial harassment issues.

Konarska said Wheeler will continue his current part-time role as technology director and will expand his job into a full-time position to include engaging staff and students in discussions regarding issues of diversity that promote greater tolerance and acceptance for individual differences.

Lisa Hall, mother of a biracial student, initially filed the complaint with the federal agency after her daughter, Katie Bridgeforth, and a friend, Dystany Dunn, were racially intimidated beginning in September 2012.

Hall said she remains hopeful the requirements will bring positive change.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes in the near future,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting to see.”

Joni Dunn, mother of Dystany Dunn, isn’t satisfied with the outcome.

“I don’t feel like this is enough,” she said.

Hall and Dunn said their daughters have been changed by the incidents. Both girls sleep more, are depressed and attend counseling.

“I don’t think she’s ever going to get over this,” Hall said.

In recent weeks, Joni Dunn said the girls have experienced additional acts of racial intimidation.

During her daughter’s yoga class, a male student was allegedly overheard calling Dystany “ugly” and a “n----.”

The following day in the class, Dunn said, Dystany’s yoga ball rolled near the student and he kicked it across the gym. Joni Dunn said her daughter reported that the students pushed her, but it was difficult to tell from the video footage.

Two of the students involved with verbally harassing the girls earlier this year harassed them yet again, more recently, Hall said.

The two boys pulled up next to the girls’ bus at a stoplight and flipped the girls off through the window, Hall said.

Konarska said these incidents have been reported and are under review.

“Any type of behavior that is found to be threatening or intimidating is unacceptable and will be fully investigated,” he said. “Although we have high expectations for our students, the reality is that there may be times when they make poor choices. When that occurs we fully intend to hold students accountable, once validated.”

As the school year draws to a close, school officials continue efforts to expand and broaden understanding.

Konarska said the district is working with the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and the Michigan Office of Civil Rights to provide training for bus drivers, teachers and administrators.

Prior to the start of the 2013-14 school year, middle and high school staff and bus drivers will receive training focused on cultural competency to assist in promoting tolerance and acceptance. Other staff will complete the training as the school year begins.

Konarska said their hope it that by working on diversity issues with students, parents and community partners, the community can develop a model that creates a school environment that embraces and celebrates diversity through greater understanding.

“It’s going to take a broader effort to have a longer impact on preventing this type of thing from reoccurring,” he said.

To read PDFs of the agreement and letters from the school district, click on the below attachments:

 

Comments

ProtestGrandHaven

What a waste of time and money, you cry black and then the whole school bends over backwards to accomodate them

Just_saying51

yep agree.... but don't like if it was true the KKK thing thats not cool at all, we are the same no one should get more accomodated than any other child

dougmacdonnell1

Well stated. We are all the same.

ghjhs

Really

sirhansalot

Just_saying51 You state "we are all the same no one should get more accommodations than any other child" That is a great thing to say but it is very idealistic. Not all of the students are being treated the same that is the point and reason for all of this fuss. Take anything a person like woodrow is saying and you get the picture that grand haven is not a very nice place to be if you are not white.

Eyeswideopen

As a non prejudice individual-- Do you honestly believe a Caucasian student could possibly walk the halls of another school with 98% African American or Hispanic and not be a victim of some kind of harassment? Can I live in your world? It's called reality. Wrong..but reality.

sirhansalot

eyeswideopen Do I think a Caucasian student could possibly walk the halls of another school with 98% African American or Hispanic and not be a victim of some kind of harassment? Yes it is possible if not and I was being harassed because I was white in a racial way I would do the same thing, ask for help from the school and after getting nowhere like in this GH situation I would go to the state then the feds Racism is racism no matter if you are black or white. No one should have to suffer because of their skin color.

dougmacdonnell1

Eyes, I believe we are all prejudice on some level. When we face that fact then we can make better assessments of who we are and what we teach our children. I would like to think of myself as more culturally diverse than others which brings about tolerance and acceptance of regardless of background.
To accept this a simple case of "reality" implies complacency with a system that has turned it's back on those in need.
However, your observation is, most unfortunately, correct . I wish it were not so.

Eyeswideopen

Hi Doug and Sirhanslot.
In no way was I applauding the bullies actions (please read my comment from 2 nights ago) as I for one, would like bullying considered an offense and letting the court system handle it when it gets this out of control. For years, GHAPS has had countless programs, assemblies, letters sent home, etc... with obviously no results. We need tougher laws against bullying. Schools can't do it alone.

dougmacdonnell1

Rest assured, if only two people have cried "foul" there are probably countless others who have chosen, throughout the years, not to come forward out of fear of criticism and subsequent reprisal. Their ability to step forward demonstrates courage and a real desire for something better for their children. They want to protect their kids as much as I want to protect my child.
Some are calling this a simple act of bullying, not racism. Bullying is a subset of racism so call it what you want. Neither is acceptable. What I have read and heard from other students tells me that this is a clear case of racism in the form of ignorance and intolerance wE had LED to bullying.
Your use of "cry black" and "bend over backwards to accommodate *THEM* clearly demonstrates racist views. Further, your lack of understanding further tramples on any meaningful dialogue toward diversity, acceptance, and progress.
Since my arrival to GH 18 months ago from Dayton/Atlanta, many of my new-found "friends" advise that I should avoid certain areas because they are heavily concentrated with a population of black and hispanics. So what!? Thanks for the warning, folks but I have experienced "those areas" and "those people" throughout the United States and abroad. While there are obvious issues with poverty in those areas I see no reason to target black and hispanic communities as the source “of all things bad” as per the comments of so many in Grand Haven.
Throughout my 55 years on this planet I have been blessed to live and experience cultures throughout the world subjoined by deep, meaningful friendships with all races. However, never have I experienced the obvious levels of animosity and direct forms of loathing toward anything and everyone who is not white, than I have since my arrival to Grand Haven. Nice, warm people in Grand Haven? Absolutely. As long as I am white!

Mystic Michael

Unfortunately, the provincialism and bigotry in the Grand Haven area is not confined merely to racism, Doug - although racism is surely one of its crudest and most primitive forms. There are many subtler forms of elitism & snobbery that pervade the local culture, hinging on such petty preoccupations as whether one is or is not of a particular class; whether one is or is not a member of a particular social cohort; whether one is or is not a member of a particular country club - and myriad other ways that people love to create in order to justify discriminating against others.

I was born in North Ottawa Community Hospital. I lived in the Grand Haven & Spring Lake area for approximately the first 25 years of my life. I know whereof I speak. Many times during my youth, I was made to feel like an interloper in my own home town.

But the 32 years that have transpired since then have been spent elsewhere - far away. Though I've been back to Grand Haven a few times during recent years for visits, at this stage of my life you couldn't drag me back to ever live there again.

Woodrow

Countless others? Where did you get these stats? There have never been "countless" blacks in GH. Stop making up left wing BS. You came from Atlanta, now called the Detroit of the south, that black crime ridden armpit? If you think Atlanta was so great, why did you leave? Or, are you like a lot of Whites who are incorporating the Atlanta suburbs into cities so they don't have to put up with black crime and corruption in Atlanta?

A lot of us have travelled the world, and as it turns out, it's a dangerous place. GH is not a dangerous place, mainly because there are no blacks.

Just because you show up it GH to deal drugs or whatever you do, don't expect the red carpet. It's a small town. You won't change it. If you don't like it, move on. Perhaps Muskegon or Muskegon height would be a good choice. Try sherman BLVD in the heights, near the old Pahalsky store. Lots of diversity there.

dougmacdonnell1

I never stated that GH was a dangerous place. Quite the contrary, had you read my comments. Also, I never stated that Atlanta is such a wonderful place either. Are you sure you are replying to ME?! Either you are replying to the wrong person or your reading and comprehension skills could use some serious work.
And, yes, I will be moving along as will the 15 tech jobs that I will NOT allocate to this area. Do you really think I would subject my employees and their children to this hostile, backwoods element that you seem to embrace. Your comment stating "Show up to deal drugs or whatever you do" clearly indicate your level of standing within this community.
You also state without equivocation that Grand Haven is not a dangerous place because there are no blacks...? WOW ! Comments like this perpetuate the real possibility that the KKK does, in fact, reside right here in the heart of Grand Haven. Are you the leader? What’s that title? Are you the official Wizard of Grand Haven?
No wonder the feds were here! If these poor kids were in receipt of a mere fraction of your sentiment at Grand Haven High School then I know now exactly why the authorities got involved.
Your comments aptly demonstrate the full spirit of the KKK which borders on hate speech. You, sir, are part of the problem, not the solution. As such, I don’t anticipate the red carpet treatment per your comments, but I wouldn’t doubt awakening one evening to a good ole fashion cross burning , complements of none other than yourself, Woodrow.
Keep hiding behind screen names while dawning your latest KKK fashioned white hoods and take note of my screen name. That is exactly who I am and I am listed in the directory. Doug Macdonnell . It doesn’t get any easier than that, does it, Woodrow? You made reference to left wing ideology. Your views and sentiments do not reflect the progress of *my* Republican Party. This is not a matter of left vs right. It is simply a matter of right vs wrong.
Lastly, can you calculate the economic impact of 15 internet tech jobs? No, I didn't think so...

sirhansalot

Thank you for your uneducated and racists remarks, you show great pride in your hatred toward African Americans. You are an embarrassment to all of grand haven . You will be best off somewhere way way out in the woods with your narrow vision of the world. YOU ARE THE REASON PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT ETHNIC BACK GROUNDS THINK OF GRAND HAVEN WITH SUCH DISTAIN. You are just one of the few not the many, may you choke and die on your own venom

sirhansalot

Woodrow are you running for the KKK Grand Wizard, or is your hatred self-inflicted

Woodrow

Don't you love the picture? The only things missing are the gang signs. I like the look of hatred in their eyes. Do you think there's racism behind it? From the attitude expressed in the picture, it would be nice to know if name calling by these two started the whole business.

I went to part of grade school through high school in GH, and a kid from out of town living on the north side, literally on the wrong side of the tracks, had to stand up to a lot of crap from the boys in the hood. So what? Getting jumped by blacks in Muskegon Heights at the age of 7 was a lot worse.

Now I look back at my days on the north side, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. Small towns are what they are. They don't roll out the red carpet.

The GH school system is superior to anything else in the vicinity because white people make it that way. If you introduced blacks, there would be nothing but chaos and violence. Whites build. Blacks destroy. Just look at Detroit, Atlanta, LA, practically every big city where there are Blacks, and you will see violence, ignorance, poverty, drug, addiction and children with no fathers. This is Black culture. It destroys everything it touches. It is a virus

I have seen a lot of left wing whining here, but no suggestions of busing Blacks from Muskegon to GHHS. That's because neocom dems like to pretend indignation, but that's because they are hypocrites. They don't want to live around blacks either. No one does, not even Blacks.

LessThanAmused

Wow, I take it sundays are your day to get s***-faced drunk and be an obnoxious dolt? It must really suck to be you and have to carry around that much hate and fear.
I gotta quit reading this forum because I'm becoming less and less interested in interacting with other residents every time I read a post like this one.

Say No To Tourist's

LTA, you hit the nail on the head on this one. Even though you may not like me or my deplorable attitude from another thread.

Good post, thank you!

dougmacdonnell1

Racism is predicated upon fear. You fear that which you do not know and you attack that which you fear. Get out your guns. Parade your white hood, Grand Haven Wizard! Woodrow, you just earned yourself a new title worthy of publication "Grand Haven Wiard." Congratulations!

Say No To Tourist's

Woodrow, your a racist pig.

Nuff said.

dougmacdonnell1

Best two words for Woodrow I've heard yet. Let me add, un vrai cochon raciste.

dougmacdonnell1

Again, your comment's aptly state exactly why the feds were here. You think you are "telling it like it is?" No. You are telling others that you are a certified redneck with zero tolerance for any other culture than your own.
Just waiting on that red carpet, Woodrow.

dougmacdonnell1

Hey, that red carpet you mentioned not being laid out for me...? It is abundantly clear why you won't be rolling out the red carpet. You can't roll something out that is clearly wrapped around your RED NECK?

truthhurts

better look in the mirror...you're no better doug. If you take that last line and replace it with words that describe a black you would be going to jail.

dougmacdonnell1

Truth, the term "Redneck" lands on a scale of 2/10 vs 10/10 in terms of offensive when compared to the "N" word. Are you saying that the use of the n word and redneck are jailable offenses? I wish! Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

truthhurts

maybe your scale works for you; the n word is not offensive to me. But you are trying to stop hate by speaking hate...read what you are writing

dougmacdonnell1

Truth, the term "redneck" is used so loosely that rednecks love being called redneck. However, you are correct inasmuch as my intent in the use of term was not toward flattery.
I was stunned when I saw a commercial for a reality TV series, Duck Dynasty, and their claim to bragging rights over an entire segment called "Redneck Logic." This is national TV! Can you imagine BET setting up a series called BET - N----r Logic? I don't think so. It's all about context. And, in fact, the delivery of my use of the term pales in comparison.
You mention that you don't find the use of the n word offensive yet you take issue with the "context" in which i use the widely used term redneck...? It flies in the face of logic.
I guess the n word works for you but god forbid i use the term "redneck."

sirhansalot

Racists fool

sirhansalot

Woodrow are you running for the KKK Grand Wizard, or is your hatred self-inflicted

sirhansalot

Woodrow I do love the picture it is very nice.

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