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School district issues statement on racist bullying incident involving Bloomfield Hills student

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – The superintendent of a district where an eighth student recorded his peers directing a racist rant slur at him says he is embarrassed and outraged by the incident.

"Last week was a particularly challenging week for our community.  I appreciate that many of you are feeling sadness, anger, and frustration," superintendent Dr. Rob Glass wrote in a letter to district families.

The Local 4 Defenders first aired cellphone video shot by Bloomfield Hills Middle school student Phoenix Williams.

In the video, which was shot on school bus during a field trip, fellow students call Williams a ni****.

Read: Investigation underway into racist bullies at Bloomfield Hills school

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper is filing paperwork seeking harassment and ethnic intimidation charges against two of the students. Williams' family is being supported by the NAACP, who is encouraging the district to go further and expel the two students.

"We must remember that historically, when we've made progress as a nation on issues of race, intolerance, and equity, we've done so together.  As slow and as painful as this work may be, we must unite and conduct this work as a whole community for the benefit of all children," Glass said in his letter.

The district is holding an open meeting to hear ideas on how to create a more "equitable culture."

In another letter obtained by the Local 4 Defenders, attorneys representing the district responded to the NAACP's claims that disciplinary action wasn't severe enough. The NAACP had also asked that the district implement a zero tolerance policy, but the district said they were "surprised" by that suggestion because the Department of Education and Department of Justice discourage implementing policies like that.

The district's attorneys also said they don't intend undertaking any more investigations or impose any additional sanctions.

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Full copy of letter is here:

Dear Bloomfield Hills Schools Families,

Last week was a particularly challenging week for our community.  I appreciate that many of you are feeling sadness, anger, and frustration.  I am personally embarrassed and outraged by the incident that took place during a school field trip.  Unfortunately, we know that in our country, children are taunted or bullied for a variety of reasons - be it their race, culture, sexual orientation, or belief system, and we need to come to the table together to serve all families with inclusion and equity.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we set the tone for how our kids are going to function in a global society. 

We must remember that historically, when we've made progress as a nation on issues of race, intolerance, and equity, we've done so together.  As slow and as painful as this work may be, we must unite and conduct this work as a whole community for the benefit of all children.

I am personally very proud of the students in our district who have stepped forward to voice their concerns. 

We have connected with some of these students and invited them to participate in the next meeting of Global Champions, where they will dialogue with over 60 adults who have been participating in Global Champions for the past year.  Our district is educating future global leaders and it is important that we begin to include student voices in this ongoing work.

Our students will unfortunately be faced with difficult situations throughout their lives.  We must equip them with the necessary skills to navigate those challenging moments.  How we model our collaborative work through these challenging times as a Bloomfield Hills Schools community is important. 

Listening, sharing, providing an equitable voice to all stakeholders, and knowing that this work will impact all children in our community will keep us on track.

Not all challenging incidents receive the media attention that this has.  However, every situation receives the same time and focus from our administration and district staff members and is wrapped in our work with the greater community on inclusion.  We are a diverse community, representing a host of languages, ethnicities, and other unique differences.  It is our similarities and the things that link us together, as a community, that will propel this work forward.

All of our children deserve a safe space to learn and all families in the community deserve a safe space for open dialogue. 

Therefore, we wish to invite you to an Open Forum on April 28, 2015, at 6:30 p.m., at the Booth Center (7273 Wing Lake Road).  During this meeting, we will listen to the views and perspectives around building a more equitable culture for all district families and then integrate those views into the comprehensive work we've already started.  We will also take a look at how we will move forward with this work into the next school year and beyond.

Sincerely,

Dr. Rob Glass, Superintendent