Some say action is a wake-up call

Some parents and students think a federal discrimination lawsuit filed against the Port Huron Area School District will be a wake-up call for administrators to end racial tensions at Port Huron Northern High School.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of parents of 12 current and former students, was announced Tuesday.

Parent Colleen Campbell, who has a 10th-grade son at the high school, said racial tensions are a problem at Northern. She said her son has had to defend a black friend who was being picked on by a group of students because of her race.

"I don't think the district has done nearly what they should," Campbell said, adding maybe the lawsuit will help institute changes at the school. "I don't see why they can't find out who is behind (the harassment) and discipline them."

School Board President Jeff Stout, who is named in the lawsuit along with other board members and school and district officials, said the board was not aware of major racial problems until last spring when a hit list of black students and racial slurs were found in a textbook.

He was surprised about the lawsuit and had not seen it.

"Do I think overall there's a significant problem? No," he said. "It's just basically your high schools are a reflection of the community. The problems at Northern aren't any different than problems in any community across the country."

Student Brittany Prigmore, a biracial freshman, said while she has never been harassed, racial slurs were directed at her brother last year.

"I do feel there's a problem," she said. "The way the school deals with things, they don't take care of them well."

She said the lawsuit is a good idea because it may make the school more aware of the problems and find ways to correct them.

Junior Elizabeth Forest, 16, said she doesn't see any racial problems at the school; she has only heard of isolated incidents.

Elizabeth said the lawsuit may create more problems in the long run.

"There's nothing you can really do to stop people from talking," she said. "I think this will make things worse and make more tensions toward the racial issue."

Contact Shannon Murphy at (810) 989-6258 or semurphy@ gannett.com.