GRANDVILLE — A local roller skating rink is being accused of discrimination, after hosting a party for area high schools, but leaving some schools off the guest list.
The Tarry Hall Roller Skating Rink in Grandville hosted their High School Homecoming Dance on Saturday, Sept. 24.
The public, online invitation listed 11 schools from which students were invited: Jenison, Allendale, Grandville, Hudsonville, Byron Center, Wayland, Zeeland, Unity Christian, South Christian, Calvin Christian and Tri-Unity Christian.
Parents from other nearby districts say the schools chosen were based on demographics. Wyoming was one of the districts that was not invited.
“I noticed the schools that were invited, and then I noticed the schools that were not invited,” said Tricia Strotdbeck, whose two daughters graduated from Wyoming Public Schools. “It just spoke volumes to me that it was obviously a demographics issue.”
“It became glaringly apparent that certain schools were included, and others were left out,” added Erin Albanese, whose daughter is a junior at Wyoming and son graduated last May. “And there seems to be a difference in the diversity levels of those schools.”
“I feel like they’re being treated under this umbrella of demographics because the data looks different on paper,” said Strotdbeck, “but they’re no different than any other teenager that would love to go to a dance.”
Other nearby districts not included were Godfrey-Lee, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville and Grand Rapids Public Schools.
“They seem to be excluding schools where there are a majority of students of color in schools that for some reason, they perceive as don’t belonging in this space with other students edit an event like this,” said Albanese.
“I know and have seen these kids,” said Strotdbeck. “They’re not just ‘kids from down the street,’ we’re talking about real people’s feelings.”
Wyoming Public Schools’ Superintendent Craig Hoekstra issued a statement saying the invite list lacked diversity, and they are awaiting a response from the rink itself, as they pride themselves on inclusion.
“We are the closest district to them that was not invited,” said Strotdbeck.
Tarry Hall posted a statement on their Facebook page the day after the dance, saying they couldn’t invite every school due to capacity issues, and that the list was based on what schools had booked with them and supported them in the past. They said that school demographics were not part of making the invitation list.
“If this was that exclusive, why wouldn’t they just send it to those schools that they’ve been dealing with instead of putting it on social media if it’s not extended to everyone,” said Strotdbeck. “Plus, I know that Wyoming Public Schools has hosted hundreds of events at Tarry Hall in the past, but I don’t know if it has been under the new ownership since 2021.”
The Tarry Hall Roller Rink did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment.
“Sometimes you just feel a conviction to speak up about something,” said Albanese. “To me, I think this situation is about sending the right message to children about how we need to be inclusive and not exclusive.”