'Racism is taught.' Friend speaks for teen alleging racist bullying

Posted at 7:54 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 19:59:06-05

HARTLAND, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Livingston County Sheriff's Office confirms it's investigating allegations of racist bullying and alleged threats at Hartland High School.

Tatayana Vanderlaan, 18, wrote a post on social media that's drawn 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.

Palmer says Vanderlaan sought legal advice and is being advised not to speak any further than what she posted to Facebook on Monday. Vanderlaan, who transferred to Hartland as a junior, wrote that she's been called the n-word, other racist names, threatened, and taunted about her appearance.

"It's been the worst the past three months, and it's everyday in one of her classes and this teacher constantly ignores the situation," Palmer said.

He added, "She wants to be able to feel comfortable getting education that she deserves. "

According to Niche school data, Hartland High School's student population is less than one percent Black. The Livingston Diversity Council says it's 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 students with similar experiences.

Matthews-Creech says in January the Diversity Council launched a schools committee as a resource to prevent and handle situations like this.

"What do our districts and our charter schools have in place to address these issues? Because you can't do good prevention without good policy, and you can't have good policy without having good training with your teachers and your staff," Matthews-Creech stated.

The district sent home a letter to parents yesterday that states, in part, "The Hartland Consolidated School District does not take these allegations lightly and will do everything possible to ensure that all children are safe and welcome at school every day."

7 Action News reached out to the district superintendent for comment this morning but have not heard back. The district office said the matter is under investigation.