What Happens in Punta Cana May Not Stay There

Hartland superintendent receives phone call expressing distaste for Hartland students' spring break behavior in Dominican Republic.

Spring break 2011 came to an end Monday morning as many students and their parents returned to school and work. But a group of students, who vacationed at the Ocean Blue & Sand Resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, have had accusations of bad behavior follow them home.

"I really hate to do this because I think we've had some really good reports tonight about things that are going on in Hartland Schools," Superintendent Janet Sifferman said at Monday's school board meeting. "But I am very distressed about a phone call that we received this afternoon."

A Grand Rapids resident who also stayed at the Ocean Blue & Sand last week with his family called the administrative office Monday afternoon with tales that Sifferman said left her feeling embarrassed and upset as superintendent, and as a parent.

The man, who had no previous knowledge of the Hartland School District, ran into a group of students at the resort who made it very clear they were from Hartland schools, according to Sifferman.

She said the caller reported that the students "were apparently unsupervised, or poorly supervised. They took over the pool and beach areas. They were drunk. They were obnoxious and rude. They threw up everywhere, including in the pool and in the hallways. And they threw trash off of the balconies."

She said the caller directed her to the website Trip Advisor, which features travel reviews. She said upon looking she noticed that the reviews of Ocean Blue & Sand were peppered with talk of ill-behaved teenagers in almost every post.

"Some of the things that are in this (website) I won't even read in a public meeting. That's how bad it is. But I think it brings undue notoriety to our district.  We strive from K through 12 to teach reason, respect, and responsibility and these young people did not exhibit that one bit," Sifferman said.

She added that she thought "long and hard" about discussing the call but felt it was important enough too be mentioned at a public meeting so that it could become a matter of public record.

"I'm here to say that if parents decide that's how they want to behave and that's how their children want to behave we can't control that.  However, if there are parents out there that are sitting on the fence and wondering if they should allow their children to be a part of this I hope by me speaking publicly that it will reinforce their good judgement."

Sifferman said the man told her he reported encounters with students from three other districts in Michigan and had called those superintendents as well.  "He ended the call by saying he was embarrassed about being from Michigan after seeing the behavior of these students," she said.

"We are very, very lucky, by what I have read and what I was told that we didn't have a tragic incident that we are mourning our first day back from spring break," Sifferman said.

She also noted that discussion on this topic will be communicated in the high schools welcome packets urging parents to not let this happen again.

Editor's note: This story was updated Tuesday evening to clarify in the opening paragraph that accusations of bad behavior were made against students from the Hartland School District.

ANONYMOUS April 14, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Yeah I guess the school board shouldn't get involved, however I personally am disgusted by the pictures posted on Facebook. To me the pictures didn't appear to be just "friends on vacation" it appeared to be "friends with benefits on vacation" completely inappropriate for Facebook.
Ann April 14, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Tom, Quite the contrary. All of these people who did not go on this spring break are now very happy that they did not go. The parents of the children are especially happy and some even feel vindicated by vetoing their child's desire to go. Parents who have their children's best interest at heart or parents who are not actually children themselves are able to use this as an example that teenagers have no good reason for going on a spring break such as this. They could better use their time and money elsewhere.
Ted Jones April 14, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Learn how to drink rookies
Christofer Machniak April 14, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Hello everyone, I just deleted a few posts that violated our terms of use. … http://hartland.patch.com/terms … There's a long list of what we don't allow, but it might boil to three main policies: “Keep it clean,” “Don’t try to trick people,” and “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Obviously, people feel strongly on this issue and we encourage discussion to express your thoughts, but this isn't a forum where anything goes. Also, note you can flag comments you feel inappropriate to help us moderate. If anyone has any questions or concerns, please contact me at 810-623-1385 or email at christofer.machniak@patch.com.
Christofer Machniak April 14, 2011 at 06:52 PM
In light of the inappropriate posts that we had to remove, we’ve decided to close down comments on this story. While we feel the many in community have engaged in a robust discussion about this story, the tone of this specific conversation was going in a direction that we don’t want to see or view as productive. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns — 810-623-1385 or christofer.machniak@patch.com.


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