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US Attorney says Hartland Schools has taken action to resolve racial discrimination case

HARTLAND — The United States Attorney’s Office Tuesday announced its has resolved a racial discrimination case from 2021 involving the Hartland Consolidated School District.

The district has already taken steps to “address concerns that were raised during the investigation,” the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan announced in a press release.

According to the release, the district has created a diversity, equity and inclusion committee, instituted training for staff and students, edited policies for investigating allegations of harassment, and increased staffing for counseling and social work.

Moving forward, the release said, the district agreed to make changes during the upcoming school year, including conducting a district-wide survey to determine the presence and effects of racial harassment, developing a plan to address concerns raised by the survey, and increasing ways to learn about, investigate and respond to complaints of racial harassment.

United States Attorney Dawn Ison said, “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.”

If the resolution terms are followed by the school district, the US Attorney’s Office will conclude its investigation at the end of the 2022-23 school year.

Superintendent Chuck Hughes said he is appreciative of the US Attorney’s Office for investigating the allegations.

“We did what we needed to do, but also know that we can always make sure that we’re assessing the climate for all children to be successful,” he said. “As long as we’re continuing to assess and make sure that every child feels safe and comfortable in the school system, that’s what we should be doing.”

What happened?

In March 2021, then-Hartland senior Tatayana Vanderlaan posted on her Facebook page, saying she was harassed by her peers at school because she is Black. The post specified that students called her the n-word, and made fun of her hair and appearance.

Vanderlaan also wrote about the lack of diversity in Hartland schools in her Facebook post.

Vanderlaan could not immediately be reached for comment.

After the allegations, Hartland Consolidated Schools launched an investigation.

In April 2021, the school board voted, 4-3, to create a subcommittee dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In May 2021, three teenagers were charged with stalking under the harassment theory, while another has been charged with assault and battery, in connection with the harassment of Vanderlaan.

The United States Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act, the release notes. Title IV authorizes the Department of Justice, of which the United States Attorney’s Office is a component, to address complaints that a school is depriving students of equal protection based on race, color, and other protected characteristics.

According to Michigan school data in 2021, 93.1% of students in the district were white, 96% of staff members were white and Livingston County’s population was 96.3% white.

Sophia Pepper is a reporter for the Livingston Daily. Contact her at [email protected] or 517.377.1065. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_lada.

This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Hartland Schools makes changes after racial discrimination case

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