East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon hosted a listening session at Hannah Community Center on Friday, Jan. 27, in which he addressed questions and concerns from parents, students and others about safety in East Lansing public schools.
“This meeting today is to find solutions,” Bacon said to begin the meeting. “To give parents a voice, to give parents an opportunity to network and come together for a common solution ... We will build a path forward.”
The meeting took place due to several events of violent and non-violent offenses at East Lansing High School, or ELHS, and MacDonald Middle School, or MMS.
ELHS was not opened for students on Jan. 27.
The session was moderated by Dorinda Carter Andrews, Michigan State University chairperson for the Department of Teacher Education and professor of race, culture and equity.
Several comments were made by students saying they did not feel comfortable in the bathrooms at the middle school and high school.
“I think parents don't understand just how bad the bathrooms are because again, you're not in school every day,” ELHS senior Allison Treanor said. “You don't experience it every day, but a few other students have said that I will say too, I don't use the upstairs bathrooms.”
Treanor said when she uses the bathroom, smoke fills the air from students smoking weed, cigarettes and vape.
Sixth graders, Nori Gomez and Sarah Maas, have run into the same problem at the middle school. The two hope to have more monitors in school hallways to help prevent kids from vaping or smoking in the bathrooms.
Bathrooms are not only a problem for substances but also harbor fights and provide a hiding place for students and non-students from the faculty.
The high school was put in a Shelter-in-Place on Tuesday, Jan. 24, because of a student who had made threats of harm towards an administrator. The student had received consequences for a non-violent offense.
The student then became upset, left the building and was overheard making threats. The student was let back into the school by a peer and hid in the bathroom. The East Lansing Police Department was then requested to help assist in removing the student from the building.
Treanor added that many fights break out in the bathroom because they are not regulated.
“When administrators’ awareness is brought to the issue of the bathrooms, what they do is they lock off the bathrooms so no one can use the bathroom,” Treanor said. “And it’s really a big problem and we need a solution to the bathrooms because they are where so many problems start and finish.”
East Lansing resident and ELHS assistant football coach Rufus Jackson said a lot of the problems occurring now have been going on for some time.
“What do I think?” Jackson said. “I think we need someone to man the cameras, to need to hire someone to man the cameras, someone to walk the hallway between classes and create a presence. If I need to volunteer to do it, that’s what I’ll do.”
Several parents concurred saying they would volunteer if necessary.
ELHS sophomore Leo Kendall touched on the topic of mental health, calling for support for teachers during this time of violent and non-violent acts.
“Half our teachers go through this, and I think that we need to really focus on getting them support ... especially mental health support,” Kendall said. “It’s very difficult for all of them to have to deal with this and have to be basically willing to throw themselves in front of a shooter if that happens. So, I think that we need to focus on that as well.”
ELHS class of 2019 graduate Drake Johnson said he was appalled by the events that transpired, especially because he has two younger sisters in the school system.
"Back when I went there,” Johnson said. “We had two security guards every single day and a resource officer.”
Johnson said the security was not just there to protect the students, but to interact with them and meet them on a personal level.
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