By Mike Kruzman & Jon King /

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) called their meeting with Hartland Consolidated Schools’ administrators a “positive first step.”

Two weeks ago 18-year old senior Tatayana Vanderlaan, a young woman of color, posted on social media several instances of racial abuse and discrimination she said were made her by fellow students. She also claimed that in at least one instance a teacher had heard it happen and, "did nothing." In the aftermath of her social media post, Vanderlaan says she received several threats from other students, including that she should be "lynched". The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation of those threats.

Last week, MDCR representative Anthony Lewis visited Hartland High School to have an initial meeting with the administration.

MDCR Communications Director Vicki Levengood said that these issues won’t be resolved quickly, but that they appear to be off to the right start. She said “We had a frank discussion and that’s a positive first step. We’re encouraged that we were able to engage in dialogue about a very difficult situation…with the administration and look forward to additional meetings soon. This won’t be resolved in one meeting; we are in it for the long haul.”

Levengood said their primary concern is for the safety and well-being of Vanderlaan, but they have also expressed to the administration concern that appropriate action is taken with regard to the students that are responsible. She said their department has a deeply experienced team that has worked on these issues for decades, and they bring a variety of resources to the table. The MDCR wants to be of assistance to the school as they work towards a positive remedy for this situation and the situation for all the students going forward.

When asked for comment on the meeting, Hartland Superintendent Chuck Hughes sent WHMI the following statement, "I can assure you that the district and I are concerned for this young lady. We are deeply troubled by the situation. We are working to ensure that she feels safe and comfortable in school. We are committed to utilizing all available resources to address any and all practices that are obstacles to learning by our students. I feel that our first meeting with the MDCR went well and appreciate the conversation we had with Mr. Lewis about how we might move forward for the good of our students, staff and community. When we have a clearly developed plan it will be shared with the public. The safety and well being of all students is and always has been our number one priority. I am confident that we will grow from this experience as we reevaluate our core values and what it means to embrace the uniqueness of every individual."

Levengood said they are taking it on good faith that the district wanted to be at the table with them, and that they will do their best to be of help as the parties work through this process. She stressed that changes won’t happen overnight, but that they are confident they can make very positive progress with the school and family to ensure Vanderlaan is safe, that this event is dealt with properly, and that the school can look at this from a systems-perspective and in a future-oriented way to prevent it in the future.