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Bill aims to better protect school employees

School employees say outbursts making it difficult for school boards to conduct business
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 7:23 PM EDT
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GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (WILX) - School board meetings are becoming tenser in mid-Michigan and across the country. A proposal in the state legislature is aimed at protecting board members and school staff

The Grand Ledge Public Schools Board had to cancel its June 14 meeting early after people took over the stage where the board was seated.

“It really smacks of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. I think many of us on the board felt we just experienced a mini Jan. 6,” said Sara Clark Pierson, Grand Ledge school board president.

Clark Pierson has held public office since the 1990′s and has never seen people as angry and uncivil as they are now.

“We’ve had people screaming three or four inches from our faces as we walk to our cars, they’ve run at the stage with their fists up,” said Clark Pierson. “In that time, I’ve never seen this kind of behavior.”

There are similar stories from around the country.

Now, some state lawmakers are pushing a bill to stop this kind of behavior by making assaulting or endangering school staff or board members a misdemeanor. It would carry a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

The Michigan Education Association said this is a good first step.

“We need to return to civility when it comes to having conversations about this. We can disagree without resorting to threats and bullying,” said Doug Pratt, MEA spokesman.

Clark Pierson said she would like to see the legislature go in a different direction and give the school board more tools to handle these situations.

“The law lets them speak. It does not say they can speak during the meeting, but I can’t eject them without essentially a physical threat,” said Clark Pierson.

She said she’d like to see the legislature change the Open Meetings Act so they could ban people who continue to disrupt public meetings.

Right now, they are allowed to come back to every meeting.

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