Thursday, September 28, 2023

East Lansing School Board holds emergency meeting on school safety

January 31, 2023
<p>Public comment at the East Lansing Public Schools board meeting on Jan. 30, 2023.</p>

Public comment at the East Lansing Public Schools board meeting on Jan. 30, 2023.

Photo by Henry Szymecko | The State News

The East Lansing School Board held an emergency meeting Monday, Jan. 30, following a shelter-in-place lockdown due to a report of an on-site weapon at the high school on Jan. 24.

The meeting was held to discuss changes the school needs to make regarding public safety and protocols for education to be its top priority. 

Parents, students and teachers also shared comments on the social temperature of the school following other incidents including the breakout of large fights early December. Other incidents include non-East Lansing High School students sneaking into the school to start fights early January and another fight at a basketball game ending with a gun falling out of a student’s backpack on Jan. 19.

The East Lansing High School, or ELHS, was closed Jan. 27 following two shelter-in-place lockdowns that week to allow administrators time to think about solutions that could be communicated to the public at the board meeting.

East Lansing schools Superintendent Dori Leyko said the purpose of the meeting was to update the community on issues happening at the school, communicate their process of change and listen to feedback from the public regarding these changes. 

Assistant Superintendent Glenn Mitcham said that while the school is hurting, he still sees hope. 

“Some of us are scared, some are mad, some are upset, some sad,” Mitcham said. “I assure you, we're gonna get through this. We're gonna figure it out and we're gonna get better.” 

However, some community members like Tim Darsh, a parent of two students in the district, are calling for the resignation of public school leader Kath Edsall, the newly-elected president of the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education due to alleged inaction and insensitive comments made at other meetings.

“The board hasn't listened thus far. There's been public outcry before,” Darsh said. “I think it's kind of ridiculous that we have to have an emergency meeting on a Monday night in the middle of January to address something that should be a basic, common need of safety in school for the kids.”

Edsall resigned from her position as school board president at the meeting, however she will continue serving as a board member. 

Changes already implemented at the school include the use of one door for student entry and increased supervisions of the hallways and bathrooms. A district wellness leader is also available for students to talk about mental health issues. 

Short-term changes the board plans to implement next month include the reinstatement of a program where suspended students will receive rehabilitative help and continue learning and the addition of increased alarmed doors and security personnel throughout the building. 

Long-term changes the board aims to introduce to the school include meetings with public safety service sectors in the city, the removal of exterior doors out-of-use and staff de-escalation training

Sherie Brooks is the mother of one of the students that has been deemed a “problem” by the school, being part of the fights that have been causing distress. However, she said she believes the school hasn’t given her student the resources to succeed socially while she has done everything to get him his education. 

“This is still his social space, so we have to learn that we did not altogether teach them how to communicate [or] teach them how to address these issues,” Brooks said. 

Brooks said her child is still the same person that other parents cheered on at sporting events, but she said now the parents want to villainize him now for fighting with the same teammates he used to play with. While she believed that her son was working with administrators, she was left in the dark with the continuing problems.

ELHS alumnus Sam Hosey said the board isn’t just facing inaction in safety, but also racism and classism that happens at the school. 

“Where's that connective tissue we talked about? The community doesn't exist. It’s very monolithic here, and everybody's very selfish here,”  Hosey said. “I've been here a long time so I can speak from a historical, maybe anecdotal, but yet, it's a historical perspective, that we're missing out.” 

ELHS math teacher Maggie Moore said high school staff are always adapting and working out new and diverse ways to solve a problem. 

“We are all in one lane right now and we are all heading in the right direction,” Moore said. “It takes a 10 out of 10 crisis in this town to get everyone on board in East Lansing. And we're here, this is it.” 

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Moore said these issues can be solved with disciplinary policies and more rehabilitative ways to solve an issue rather than direct expulsion. She emphasized the importance of having conversations with students on misinformation online to stop the spread of rumors and the online rhetoric of violence. 

ELHS student Jessie Meilock said she lives in fear at the school.  

“I feel it's important to remind the school board [that] everybody who walks into this building should have a future. That's your job to make sure that you advise on that. We have a future. We have to go to college…we need to get a driver’s license…We have all these achievements ahead of us,” Meilock said. “I just want to remind you all that these decisions you need to think about — the future of the staff members, they need to think about the future for the children in the entire community.” 


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