A recent Michigan Messenger story headlined “Haslett teacher reveals â€˜drunk shamingâ€™ by fellow employees” has created an uproad in the small, affluent, bedroom community of Haslett outside Lansing.
The MM article included numerous allegations surrounding an incident that took place roughly a year and a half ago, when a group of Haslett high school teachers held a celebration after the 2007 school year ended. At least some of the participants have apparently admitted to engaging in heavy drinking and marijuana use at the party, and some parents argue that this makes it more difficult for them to enforce zero-tolerance policies on such behavior among students.
The “drunk shaming” reference in the headline involves allegations by a female high school teacher that some of her fellow teachers drew lewd images and remarks on her with markers as she lay unconscious. The MM article includes pictures that obviously had to have been taken by someone other than the victim, though they were supplied to the publication by her.
While the article ostensibly attempts to bring attention to the little-reported issue of drunk shaming, it also includes statements that the teacher suspects that she was drugged and sexually assaulted at the party prior to the drawing incident.
In addition, the article questions whether local prosecutors and school officials responded adequately to her concerns. No criminal charges have been filed against any of the participants, and the teachers have not been formally reprimanded by the school district. However, according to a recent Lansing State Journal article, the girls’ basketball coach recently quit that job voluntarily. The coach said stepping down was not an admission of involvement in any of the alleged misbehavior, but because he did not want the controversy to affect the girls’ season.
A series of articles in the Lansing State Journal brought the word of the situation to a larger audience, and the entire area has since been buzzing with conflicting accounts of what happened. Many people hoped the school board meeting would provide clarity and context.
At the standing-room-only session on Monday (October 26, 2009), Superintendent Michael Duda defended the school district’s actions. He read a prepared statement that reminded the parents, students and teachers in the audience that this took place at a private residence after the 2007 school year had ended. “This was offensive behavior by people we trust to have better judgment than what they displayed that evening at that party. I have called it both deplorable and an embarrassment to Haslett Public Schools and to our profession. I take offense at the false and misleading statements to the effect that our school district took ‘little if any action’ on this matter until an online media outlet became involved,” he said.
The statements goes on to say: “In our legal system, it is “innocent until proven guilty,” and if a crime has been committed, it is for law enforcement agencies to decide. At this point, the district has no legal recourse to take action toward any staff member who allegedly attended that private party held on private property. If criminal wrongdoing by anyone involved is found, we will not hesitate to take disciplinary action.
Parents, teachers and students then took to the podium to make statements. Perhaps the most striking reaction to their comments was that Haslett residents exhibited tremendous civility and respect for one another, even when they differed in their views and even when feelings ran high.
The video below includes portions of the public statements, for the purpose of providing a range of community sentiments. While I tried to include representative views, the video is not all inclusive, and I apologize for sections that may be hard to hear.
Links to articles and statements: