GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - At Grand Haven High School Tuesday morning, 24 Hour News 8 was told, the principal made an announcement over the PA system discussing reports of several racist acts by students over the past several months.
The incidents date back to September and include other students subjecting biracial teen girls to verbal and written slurs and wearing Ku Klux Klan type clothing.
The mother of one of the girls targeted, 15-year-old Katie Bridgeforth, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday Katie is a little worn out from all the attention but the school day went well. She also said their family has received an outpouring of support from people in the Grand Haven community.
The school has disciplined six Grand Haven students for their actions thus far, but it has not yet been determined whether any of the incidents constituted a hate crime.
"That's ultimately going to be the prosecutor's decision. Our job is pretty straight forward. Our job is to find the facts," said Ottawa County Sheriff's Dept. Lt. Mark Bennett.
He said detectives have been working daily to do just that.
"We still have much to do in that we're gathering evidence, some video tapes. Talking to potential witnesses, other students, what have you. I can't give you a timetable on when it will be complete, but our ultimate goal is to find the facts and send them into the Prosecutor's Office," he said.
And while authorities are on the case now, parents told school board members Monday night they were upset that it took months for them to take action.
"They're negligent in how they've been handling it," said Katie's mother Lisa Hall.
Superintendent Keith Konarska said Tuesday what parents may have perceived as a lack of action and communication is due to the fact that the district couldn't discuss what discipline was in the works for other students. But he said the district treated every allegation seriously and "the individual circumstances were handled in a timely manner."
The US Office for Civil Rights is also conducting an investigation and was not able to get back to 24 Hour News 8 for comment Tuesday.
The sheriff's department says two agencies have been working well together and while they're using much of the same evidence, they have a different set of criteria that must be met to prove if a crime was committed.
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