FRUITPORT, Mich. (WOOD) - A Fruitport High School senior is suspended pending an investigation into a photo she admitted to taking and doctoring.
The photo is of a black, ninth-grade student. The altered picture posted last week on Instagram shows the ninth-grader's face put on the body of a person hanging from a tree with a noose around the neck.
Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak said district officials haven't seen the doctored photo. The 12th-grade student admitted to producing the image, but said she deleted it from her cellphone.
School officials say it was sent to only a few students.
"Someone who had seen that photo told the student who the photo was taken of…about the picture, feeling it was rather inappropriate," Szymoniak said.
Officials at Fruitport High School found out about the picture when the subject of the picture and the student who took it got into a confrontation at the school.
The senior was suspended pending the outcome of the school's investigation.
Fruitport police are also investigating, though they told 24 Hour News 8 it's too early to tell if and what charges could be brought.
The ninth-grader's mother emailed 24 Hour News 8 about the incident, expressing concern over the way it is being handled.
24 Hour News 8 is not naming the mother to protect her daughter's identity.
She told 24 Hour News 8 she wants more done. She is afraid the incident will be swept under the rug.
Her biggest concern is over the school officials' suggestion to bring in a third party -- the Muskegon-based Mediation and Restorative Justice Program. Sometimes compelled by the court, and in this case suggested by the school, the program allows both sides in a dispute to come together and reach a resolution.
Program officials aren't allowed to talk about specific cases, but in general, say they have been effective in defusing situations involving bullying, racial issues and a host of other incidents.
"It's not about who's right, who's wrong, let's hug and kiss," program coordinator Jackie Hallberg said. "It's about becoming accountable. What did you do specifically to have this behavior escalate? What can you do and what competencies can you develop so it doesn't happen again?"
"Sometimes the plan is not to make the kids friends again. It's really to decide how can we work our separate ways to not get into each other's business again, not to start issues, and certainly not to be a safety threat," Hallberg continued.
School officials said the Mediation and Restorative Services is another option, along with the school and the police investigation, to resolve the matter.
"We are trying to make things right through the restorative justice process. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else we could do," Szymoniak said.
Fruitport Township police have just started their investigation. They hope to have more information later this week.
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