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January 19, 1996 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-01-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Robert Alexander Jewelers

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ANN ARBOR

Students Reject
Racist Threats

DAVID ZEMAN STAFF WRITER

or nearly two weeks, stu-
dents at North Farmington
High School had expressed
bewilderment and remorse
that someone on this culturally
mixed campus could have
scrawled racist threats against
African-American classmates.
"I know these things happen,
but I didn't think they happened
at my school," said sophomore
Karen Weberman, 15, in a reac-
tion typical of many at the school,
which has a large Jewish popu-
lation.
"It's not necessarily a feeling of
shame among one group," said
Ben Ellis, a senior. "It's not a feel-
ing of shame by white students or
Jewish students or black stu-
dents. It's a feeling of shame
among all the students of North
Farmington High."
These Jewish students and oth-
ers were unable to recall any in-
cident that might have prompted
someone to threaten the
approximately 60 African Amer-
icans who attend the 1,200-
student school.
But as the police probe unfold-
ed this week, the answer to who
would do such a thing turned
from improbable to bizarre. Po-
lice suspect the architect of the
hate messages was a 15-year-old
African-American girl.
At mid-week, Farmington Hills
Police Chief William Dwyer was
awaiting results of fingerprint and
handwriting analysis at the
Michigan State Police crime lab
before deciding whether to charge
the girl with a crime.
The crime in question is a vio-
lation of Michigan's ethnic intim-
idation law, which makes it a
felony to threaten harm to some-
one based on his or her race.
If charged as an adult and
found guilty, the student faces up
to two years in prison, a $5,000
fine and the possibility of a civil
lawsuit.
Chief Dwyer said nothing in
the law prevents it from being en-
forced against one member of an
ethnic group for threats against
other members of the same group.
The string of racially inflam-
matory writings rocked the high
school and brought the unwel-
come glare of media attention
when the threats were disclosed
earlier this month.
On Tuesday, Jan. 2, racial slurs
were discovered on the lockers of
some black students. The next
day, a threatening note directed
at African Americans was found.
One day later, students found
notes in their lockers threatening
the lives of several black students.
According to Chief Dwyer, the

F

15-year-old suspect "may have
been involved in two (of the inci-
dents) or in all of them." He de-
clined to identify the girl or to
speculate about her motivation.
He said however, that she did not
appear to have had any prior
brushes with the law.
North Farmington Principal
Deborah Clarke declined com-
ment, referring inquiries on the
incident to Don Cowan, a Farm-
ington school-district official. "I
have not heard of any motivation
yet," Mr. Cowan said. "That's the
biggest question we have."
Julie Harwin, 17, a North
Farmington senior, said the hate
messages have dissolved some of
the cliquishness that has at times
separated students at her school.
"A lot of the media were saying
these notes were tearing this
school apart, but they really made
people a lot more aware of each
other and have brought us closer
together," she said.
Ms. Harwin noticed, for in-
stance, how one of her friends —
an African-American on the so-
called "Death List" — had been
approached by non-African-Amer-
ican students in the past week.
"They weren't necessarily

Incident draws
students together.

friends with him, bu:., they were
reaching out to him.
"Everyone was che'cking up on
each other and making sure
everyone was OK."
Mr. Ellis, a student-council
member, said his classmates "feel
like our school is a little United
Nations. Basically, we get along
and there is not a lot of ethnic ten-
sion. So we're dealing with it and
trying to take it in stride. We're
not making light of it, but we re-
alize this incident shouldn't create
more tension."
Melanie Stein, a 15-year-old
freshman, said school officials
have clamped down on granting
hall passes to students and are
patrolling the school grounds in
greater numbers.
Teachers also were discussing
race relations with students and
trying to dispel rumors circulat-
ing through the student body.
Mr. Cowan acknowledged that
the hate messages and dramatic
twists of the investigation have
left school officials "with a situa-
tion that is certainly inique."
"It's not something for which
there is any set plan," he said.
"We just have to provide facts. We
have to communicate."



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