GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - Officials at Grand Haven High School are responding as they investigate six incidents of racial intimidation -- but parents say more needs to be done.
With shaky voices and tears in their eyes, several parents stood before the school board Monday evening and described how their biracial daughters were targets of racist threats and acts at Grand Haven High School.
Incident after incident dating back to September was recounted:
- A student wearing a Ku Klux Klan mask, which was eventually knocked off his head near the bus pick-up outside the school.
- Another wearing a cone hat with "KKK" on it in the school cafeteria.
- A racial slur written on a foggy bus window.
- A student saying Blacks and Mexicans should go back to Africa and Mexico.
- A student saying the same racial slur and telling minorities to sit in the back of the bus.
- Sexual innuendoes with a racial component.
Lisa Hall first reported the incidents. She said her biracial daughter Katie Bridgeforth, 15, was targeted in all of them, as well as additional harassment.
"A kid said, 'Hey slave, hey slave, have you been picking any cotton lately?' while she was taking a test," said Hall.
She said her daughter is now in counseling and doesn't feel safe in school.
"She doesn't even want to go to school," she said.
Joni Dunn says her biracial daughter Dystany, 14, was also targeted.
"I would like to see justice for the girls and the other students involved. I would like to see the community change," Dunn said.
Parents say bus and school surveillance images confirm the incidents.
Grand Haven Area Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska said the district is cooperating with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department, and Federal Office for Civil Rights is investigating the cases, and the district has already taken some action.
"We do know and are looking into six specific incidents now," said Konarska. "We have had six students disciplined as a result of our initial review. And we continue to cooperate with authorities and continue to look at what occurrences actually happened."
But parents say the district was slow to act and more should be done.
"Any child should be able to go to school free of intimidation and being degraded and humiliated," said Hall.
The superintendent wouldn't say what form of discipline was handed down, but parents told 24 Hour News 8 the offending students were suspended for three days. They say that is not enough.
Moving forward, the superintendent says, school officials are working closely with the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance to train students, faculty and staff on how to handle and prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
The superintendent said the district-wide minority population is about 10%.
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