Racism addressed

Lisa Hall handed Grand Haven school board member Mike Cramer a picture of her 15-year-old biracial daughter, Katie Bridgeforth, to pass around to the other trustees as she addressed them. “She has gone through a heck of a year,” Hall said.
Krystle Wagner
Mar 5, 2013

Bridgeforth, a freshman at Grand Haven High School, has been at the center of some race-related incidents at the school.

Hall and several other parents spoke out about the incidents at Monday night's school board meeting in Central High School's gym.

The Grand Haven school district is under local and federal investigations following a series of incidents at the high school involving KKK-like apparel and a racial slur written on a school bus window.

In September 2012, Bridgeforth said a student wore a KKK-like mask after school before a fight broke out. Later in the year, Bridgeforth said she and a friend overheard a conversation on a bus ride home in which a girl said the world would be a better place if all African-Americans went back to Africa and all Hispanics went back to Mexico.

After those incidents, Hall filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. In December, the agency launched an investigation into the incidents.

In February, Bridgeforth and her friend were the direct subjects of harassment as they rode the bus home from school. According to Bridgeforth, some male students on the bus said, “Look at those n----s over there. I’ll give you $5 if you (have sex with) one of them.”

Hall told the school board the district has let her down in the way it has handled the incidents.

“There’s no excuse for it,” she said.

Hall said she hoped the school district's staff will become better educated about racism, and programs are set in place for students to come forward and report incidents.

“I want you to feel her pain,” Hall told the board.

School board President Chris Houghtaling thanked Hall for her comments.

Megan Rohn also expressed her frustration to the board regarding the lack of notification when her son, Patrick Gardener, was brought into the school's office and falsely accused of writing a racial slur on the side window of Bus No. 1. Gardner, a freshman, previously said he was accused of writing, “Kill all n-----s.”

After reviewing the bus’ surveillance videos, school officials determined Gardner was innocent.

High school Principal Tracy Wilson said she couldn’t say what was written on the bus because of the open investigations, but it didn’t contain the word “kill.”

Rohn said she felt like the school was failing the students during these situations.

Joni Dunn, the mother of Bridgeforth’s friend who was with her during both bus incidents, told the school board that her daughter has been through more than any child should.

Dunn said she drove her daughter and Bridgeforth to school on Monday because the girls didn't want to ride the bus. When they arrived at the school, both girls put their hoods on like they were ashamed, Dunn said.

“They are girls, not colors,” Dunn said.

Amber Love told the board that her son, Isaac, reported an incident to her and she contacted the school about it. Love said she felt nothing was done and the school failed her son.

“These acts are appalling,” she said.

Love said students need to receive stronger consequences for their actions to learn that their actions follow them.

Paula Kendra, a member of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance Board of Directors, urged the school board to expand beyond training for administrators and optional programs for students. She challenged the board to make it a mandatory aspect of the curriculum for all grades.

On Monday, Wilson e-mailed the school's parents a copy of the announcement she read over the school’s public address system to staff and students that morning. Her announcement addressed current educational aspects the school participates in — including Calling All Colors, Restorative Circles, Capturing Kids Hearts, Anti-Bullying/Bucs Above Bullying, Team GH and Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s Institute for Healing Racism.

Wilson also addressed the ongoing investigations, and said the district is cooperating with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and the Office of Civil Rights.

“We do not take any of these types of situations lightly and will continue to uphold our Student Code of Conduct,” she said in her statement.

Andre Daley, associate executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, told the school board that it’s a challenging and complex issue. He said the good news is that the agency is working with the school district to address the issues through educational training and providing students with the resources to speak up.

The bad news, Daley said, is that such incidents still arise. To combat that, Daley said it needs to be looked at beyond the school campus.

“We need to look at the broader community context,” he said.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska said he appreciates the community’s input, and it is important for the board and himself to hear their heartfelt and sincere comments.

With the help of the diversity alliance, Konarska said they are bringing the issue to the community for resolution. He said they plan to engage residents through a committee to begin a broader dialogue about expecting tolerance.

“If one child feels harassed or threatened, it’s one child too many,” he said.

Houghtaling said they will continue to educate students and staff about combatting racism, and will do whatever it takes to make sure all children feel comfortable attending school.

“It’s my goal to make sure that happens,” he said.

Comments

AtomicRooster

I resent your ignorant KKK comment, but I have to consider the source of someone who has not stepped outside of GH much in his life. Is that all the better you can do? Shows me and anyone who reads your ignorant lame brain comment as someone who barely got through the 5th grade. Ignorance is bliss I can only gather where you come from. Get a life!

Smitty

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

AtomicRooster

You reap what you sow. I am not against interracial dating or marriages. But THINK of the future of your unborn children and the kind of repurcussions that they will face as they enter the adult world. They are usually not accepted by either white or black. I know as I seen it happen all the time living in Muskegon. Just saying. No I am not a racist. And you can think what you want to. I really don't care at this point. It's called Freedom of Speech so get used to it. You Grand Havenites need to take your rose colored glasses off and see the world for what it is. Step outside of the box once and a while and see how the other half lives.

sirhansalot

Atomic Rooster, Why should anybody have to feel " repercussions because they are not white? May be you need to take your white colored glasses and see the world for what it is. You are part of the problem.

AtomicRooster

Go live in Muskegon a few weeks or try Benton Harbor or even better yet Detroit. I'd bet a month of paychecks you'd be singing a different tune. Tells me you have not experience life much at all, have you? Step outside of the box once in a while. You might learn something. I live in the real world and obviously you do not.

gh53

Its sad that the actions of a few are tainting a great school! I'm so glad my kids attend Grand Haven. I have faith in the administrators that they are making appropriate decisions for the safety and well being of all the kids that attend the school. I have seen the complete opposite of what some people are saying is rampant in the school.

Yaright

ARooster- What did you "seen" it or "saw" it? Have not "expierence" or "expierenced"? If your going to challenge intelligence, sound educated please.

AtomicRooster

Oh no folks we have the typo police here. Like you have never made a typo in your pathetic life? You have rocks for brains and that has been noted. I am way more intelligent than you will ever hope to be. I know it's been tough on you lately since you found out what a loser you actually are. You are unable to stay focused on the topic here because it will be a cold day in hell when you do make any kind of an intelligent remark. No one here is going to hold their breath on that one. Here's a suggestion for you; keep your pie hole shut unless you DO have something intelligent to say. Which in your case will be never. Oh and have a nice day imbecile.

Eyeswideopen

I'm so exhausted by all this coverage. Bullying is a problem for ALL races!! Wonder how many caucasians have experienced bullying in a different minority school? Wonder why their nightmare has never been plastered all over the media? I'll tell you why. Because the media would be afraid of a lawsuit for discrimination.
Last but not least-- Do some of you honestly believe a white person could walk into a 98% african american building and not be a victim of bullying?
Can I live in your world?

AtomicRooster

Finally, somebody here gets it. Dear Sir or Madam I salute your post. I am so tired of the "Race Card" being used day in and day out I could puke. Live in Muskegon Grand Havenites for about a week or two. Blacks there are more racist than white people are. They usually perpetuate their own oppression. Look at all the programs set up for Black people to get ahead. Affirmative Action for one. Are there any programs for caucasions to get ahead? Oh hell no! Why? Because then we would be called racists if there were. Black History Month. If we had a White History Month we'd be called racists. BET=Black Entertainment Television? If we had a WET=White Entertainment Television we'd be called racists. And the list goes on and on. White people are the new minority folks. When I lived in Muskegon I incessantly had to hear blacks saying; you're picking on me because I'm black. What if white people started saying stupid remarks like that. Or you're picking on me because I'm Polish, German, Irish, Italian, French, etc. etc. Does anyone here see the point I am making, or are you all just too blind to see? Every nationality through the ages has had to suffer some kind of discrimination or racism. Why is it that only blacks can be the only race? Or should I say, why is it that only white people can be racists?

dyankee

AtomicRooster Well said. Here is your problem....you're using common sense to describe the obvious. This has nothing to do with racism. This has everything to do with the progressive movement destroying this country from within through pit/divide/control/conquer strategies. It's death to our country by a thousand slashes. This fabricated racism charge against the GH school district is a microcosm to a much bigger goal of taking down America. It's organizations like the Institue for creating racism, Seirra club, Gay & Lesbian movement, CAIR, NAACP, Anti-gun movement, Athiest, Unions, Academia, ACLU, Lawyers Guild, Hollywood, liberal media outlets, Occupy Anystreet, Planned Parenthood, Headstart, ACORN, PETA, LARASA, Global Warming Nazi's, Moveon.org, the UN, on and on and on... 100's of organizations most funded and orchestrated under the Democrat Party by funneling tax payer moneys to these groups that are(IMO) enemies of this Country. They fool Americans by using innocent names and acroynms so, they can fly below the radar and character assasinate anyone who could possibly be against planned parenthood or for heaven's sake, Headstart programs across this country. They further muddy the water by providing some legitimate services to the public. Along the way, they get bonus points with people indoctrinated into actually believing in these causes which anchors their footing and creates momentum for their ultimate goal of destroying the work ethic, morality, decency, prosperity, and the pursuit of individual happiness in America. By innocently helping these movements and supporting what they think is a just cause due to their own ignorance & lack of exposure to our Consitution and Founding Father's brilliance, they are actually helping the cause of detroying are way of life. Most(especially the Democrat party and some RINO Republicans) are, in my opinion, seditiously and deliberately hell bent on changing America to the point of oppressing the population through control of manditory essentials to a free society such as health care, energy, and education. Once they have absolute control of this, a willing President, an Attorney General to provide cover for a willing president, control of the House, the Senate, and the Judicial branches along with disarming the population then, it will be game over. So, you can see how dangerously close we are to a total collapse of our country. We can indeed stop this madness and reverse course, but it will take conservative control(not Republican)of the political field, Judicial field, and academia field to do it.

Smitty

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks.

gordbzz231

maybe someone should look at the policy that consumers energy has and how to deal with this, its called, (the company we keep)

Yaright

AtomicCock....what are you talking about??? WET, etc...thats original..nobody has ever heard that before...so original...yep everybody is to blind to see your points...you just go one living in that special little reality you have created for yourself...friggin weirdo

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