© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

East Lansing parents petition for school board president’s resignation

East Lansing High School photo
East Lansing Public Schools
Some East Lansing parents are circulating a petition calling for the resignation of Board of Education President Kath Edsall. The action comes amid a turbulent week in the district.

Updated on January 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Some East Lansing parents are circulating a petition calling for the resignation of Board of Education President Kath Edsall.

The action comes amid a turbulent week in the district.

The change.org petition demanding Edsall’s removal as board president follows a contentious school board meeting on Monday, in which many parents voiced fears for their children’s safety.

The next day, East Lansing High School went on lockdown for two hours as police investigated reports of a weapon on campus.

No weapon was found.

Jennifer Chenault has two children in the district.

She says Edsall isn’t listening to the community’s concerns, and instead adopts a largely unpopular activism.

“Her views just don’t fit in with what parents; most parents, teachers especially, and students wish to see,” Chenault said.

Edsall says she agrees with claims of having an activist point of view in regards to social justice and equity, adding that it’s unfortunate that her views have become a flashpoint for the community.

"It's unfortunate that this has been made out to be an either or situation, that we can't have racial justice and safety. The idea of lots of racial undertones that Black kids make white people unsafe or feel unsafe is heartbreaking to me. You know, and horrifying as well," Edsall said. "So I think there was a narrative there long before Monday night's meeting in regard to some of my activism throughout the community and trying to make East Lansing and East Lansing schools, a welcoming place for everyone."

WKAR has not reported on the race of any students involved in the incidents.

Edsall says the board has met with the teachers’ union and other groups to outline a list of possible safety measures going forward.

“I am listening, the rest of the school board is listening, and within 24 hours of the end of the last meeting we had a list out,” Edsall said. “We’ve worked with our superintendent, and we intend to move forward with that.”

The Board of Education sent an email to the East Lansing schools community Tuesday night acknowledging the concerns shared during public comment on Monday:

In response to the issues raised regarding school safety, the East Lansing Board of Education is committed to the following:

  1. Direct the Superintendent and her team to determine and present to the Board recommendations for immediate implementation as well as short- and long-term safety enhancements across the school district. We are listening to the suggestions being offered from our teachers and their union representatives, our broader community, and other stakeholders. A list of the suggestions that have been received, particularly those offered by the East Lansing Educational Association (ELEA), are listed at the end of this document. We would like to see this plan by this coming Monday, January 30, 2023.
  2. Hold a meeting with area stakeholders (local safety experts including the East Lansing Police Department, the East Lansing City Council, among others) as soon as practicable to discuss coordinated plans to enhance safety in our schools and broader community.
  3. Communicate regularly and in as transparent a fashion possible with our community at school board meetings about ongoing efforts to address safety concerns.

The board also outlined several recommendations to increase school safety:

At the High School Building/Principal level:

  1. No backpacks in classrooms
  2. Easily identifiable hall monitors/advocates/building subs/counselors monitoring every bathroom between every class that are properly trained to engage students (assigned to specific areas throughout the building)
  3. Counselors to provide additional hallway supervision during passing time
  4. Assign a monitor to students EXITING the main door during lunch to check IDs
  5. Assign a monitor at the night activities door #8 throughout the day (if it can not be or until it is alarmed-see below)
  6. Have an additional monitor/advocate observe the main buzzer each hour freeing up valuable time for our building administrative assistants
  7. Hire additional advocates/monitors if necessary to accomplish the above
  8. Host an assembly to introduce these individuals and their roles to everyone
  9. Enforce tardy detention policy for all students with support from Superintendent and School Board
  10. Cell phone ban with consequences for non-compliance
  11. Re-evaluate additional security options
  12. Mandatory student ID badges to be worn for daily scanning and identification
  13. Additional security during sporting events
  14. Survey students regarding safety and culture
  15. Better communication to apprise the community about what safety steps are being taken

Building Principal/Superintendent/Technology Director:

  1. Improved communication

a. Provide every teacher with a walkie-talkie on their desk so they can call for immediate help from all advocates, administrators, hall monitors, etc.)

b. Provide parents, teachers (including substitutes) and staff information on fights, weapons, shelter in place and lockdowns in real time in both texts and emails

2. Install panic button in the main office

3. Offer tools beyond restorative justice

4. Re-evaluate additional security options at the high school

School Board/Facilities Committee/Policy Committee/Finance Director/Facilities Director:

  1. Review all policies related to student behavior, consequences and building security to ensure they are not impeding our Administrators’ ability to discipline students
  2. Reinforce the board’s role in the delivery of consequences
  3. Alarm all doors so kids can’t just open them for whomever. Alarming the doors will leave all the doors available/unlocked if there is a fire, but prevent entry or letting other kids in. Note: Adults must abide by appropriate entry to the building to model for students.
  4. Better communication to apprise the community about what safety steps are being taken

East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon will host a listening session Friday evening on school and public safety at the Hannah Community Center.

Kevin Lavery served as a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered before retiring in 2023.
Related Content
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!