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EL school board president resigns amid tensions over school safety

ELPS trustee Kath Edsall resigned her position as board president at the end of a contentious, four-hour public meeting.
Kevin Lavery
ELPS trustee Kath Edsall resigned her position as board president at the end of a contentious, four-hour public meeting.

The East Lansing Board of Education assembled Monday night for an at times contentious public meeting about school safety. The evening ended with the school board president’s resignation.

The four-hour meeting was the latest in a string of tense moments for the district.

Administrators presented a proposed safety improvement plan that includes short-term enhancements like more alarms on exterior doors, and long-range strategies such as mentoring programs for at-risk students.

Earlier this month, a gun fell from a student’s backpack at the scene of a fight following an East Lansing High School basketball game.

Assistant Superintendent Glenn Mitcham acknowledged the community’s current mood, while trying to remain positive.

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

Some parents allege the school board is ignoring their concerns and not holding violent students accountable for their actions.

East Lansing parent Brad Lutz said one of the district’s biggest problems is a lack of communication.

“My child was accosted in the hallways of McDonald Middle School,” Lutz said. “A couple days’ suspension; they’re supposed to go through restorative justice. You know what I was told? ‘I’m sorry, we have 900 children. We dropped the ball.’ My child is just a number, apparently. That’s not acceptable.”

For weeks, many in the district had called for the resignation of board president Kath Edsall, and even launched an online petition campaign.

As the meeting concluded, Edsall voluntarily stepped down as president, saying, “I have become a distraction to the work that needs to be done.”

Vice president Terah Chambers will serve as acting president at the start of the board’s next meeting on Feb. 13. A new president will be elected at that time.

Kevin Lavery served as a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered before retiring in 2023.
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