U.S. Attorney: Hartland schools took steps to address concerns of race discrimination allegations

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 17:23:55-04

(WXYZ) — The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan said it has resolved its investigation into allegations of racial discrimination by the Hartland Consolidated School District.

According to the Department of Justice, an investigation began after a complaint was filed by someone who was a student and her guardian, alleging that the district failed to address racial harassment against her and other Black students.

The DOJ said the investigation was under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the district cooperated fully and took a number of steps to address concerns raised during the investigation. Those steps included creating a School Board-level Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, training for staff and students, revising internal policies for investigating allegations of harassment, and adding counselors and social work staff.

The district will also take additional steps next year including conducting a climate survey at the district to address the presence and effect of racial harassment and develop a plan based on the results.

“Students deserve a safe school environment where they can learn and grow without facing racial harassment. In districts like Hartland, where students of color are only a small percentage of the student body, schools must make an extra effort to ensure that all students are comfortable reporting harassment and other forms of discrimination and be confident that the adults in the building will keep them safe,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Dawn Ison said in a statement. “We commend the Hartland Consolidated School District for acknowledging their obligations to remove barriers to ensure that all students can fully engage in the educational process.”

During and after the end of the school year next year, the U.S. Attorney's Office will review the district's compliance.

In March 2021, a Hartland High School student said she had been called the n-word, taunted by students and threatened with lynching over the past three months and the school administration and teachers have not done anything about it.

Tatayana Vanderlaan, 18, wrote the post on social media that drew a lot of supportive comments.

"One of her biggest things she says is that racism is taught," Travis Palmer, Vanderlaan's best friend, told 7 Action News in March 2021.

According to Niche school data from 2021, Hartland High School's student population is less than one percent Black. The Livingston Diversity Council says it reached out to Vanderlaan to offer support. Board president Nicole Matthews-Creech says social media's far reach likely has students, teachers and administrators from other districts taking notice. That's especially for students with similar experiences.