DEARBORN, Mich. (TMJ NEWS) – A school board meeting about explicit material available to children at Dearborn Public Schools (DPS) headquarters ended abruptly, causing parents to chant in protest as the school board members made their exit out of the room.
The room was bursting at the seams; the chairs in the hall were filled and long lines trailed out of the two entrances with only standing room for parents. Some attendees waited in the hallways holding up signs that read “Protect the Children” in silent protest. One grandmother held up a sign that read “Know Your Rights: Michigan Legislature Section 722.673” referencing the prohibition of disseminating, exhibiting or displaying sexually explicit matter to minors which include books.
The school board made clear that there were steps taken to resolve these issues, but parents still wanted answers as to how the books got there in the first place. When the issue was brought to their attention, parents aimed to make clear that such content should not be accessible to minors, and that this for them was a red line.
Many of the attendees were visibly Muslim and some Islamic scholars attended as well.
Present at the meeting were school board members Pat D’ambrosio, Hussein Berry, Adel Mozip, Dr. Glenn Maleyko, Mory Petlichkoff, Irene Watts, Joanne Harris, and Roxanne Mcdonald. James Thorpe’s seat remained empty.
Roxanne Mcdonald spoke of diversity and the purpose of the event was to review age appropriate content while Dr. Maleko added that parents should have the right to limit what their children can see.
The room was stuffy and tense, but the attendees managed to remain quiet as different speakers expanded on various subjects such as updates from the department of special needs, staff recognition, school funding, and the weeding processes of books.
Hussein Berry empathized with the attendees and asked Adam Martin, the Executive Director of Student Achievement for DPS if there was a way to empower parents to make choices and consult with them during the decision making process on selecting reading materials.
It was here where it was mentioned to the public that the books had not been banned, but rather placed on temporary hold for five years.
Board member Adel Mozip said the issue was “handled with care and cooperation.” He added that the media was painting this as a book banning, when it was “making sure that sexual and inappropriate content is not made available to children.” This statement was met with booing from the parents, some of whom chanted “we have a right to say what we want to say.”
Roxanne McDonald called for order in the room, repeating the phrase she had said earlier “the children are watching” in a meeting where parents had attended in concern for their own children. When the floor was opened to concerned parents, one attendee disparaged the recently implemented three minute rule for parents to speak.
However, due to the high number of people that intended to speak, the board said the 3-minute rule would give everyone a fair chance.
Amidst the booing, it was abruptly announced that the parents who had been in the room waiting calmly for the entirety of the meeting were in violation of the fire code due to being over capacity. Parents were asked to leave, save around a hundred parents, so that the meeting could continue. The booing grew louder as some parents shouted “why now?”
School board members, who were surrounded by several armed police officers, exited the room causing the crowd to erupt into cheers as well as angry chants to vote them out of office. Displays of the explicit material from the books were placed in the front of the room, but some parents asked to have them taken down as there were children present among the crowd.
One father, Hassan Bazzoun, said to TMJ News “I am concerned for the next generation… because this is done in a systematic way and this is child abuse. These are satanic ideas being implemented into the minds and psyches of young children.” When asked if he felt heard by the board today, he said “the concerns of the parents are falling on deaf ears through political jargon which is fueling the fire for parents.”
Brian Stone, a political activist in the LGBTQ community said “the issue at hand is about whether parents can inflict their choices on other parents and to silence LGBTQ students and parents. That is illegal. Each parent has the right to restrict their own child’s reading material. If parents have strong religious beliefs, they have a right to opt out.”
Stephanie Butler, one of the moms leading the fight against Dearborn Public Schools, disagreed. She said toTMJ News that the school board’s resolution to opt out was not enough, as parents would have to opt out of specific titles and not genres, which would be an exhausting task to undergo. “Today, parents were censored once again when the meeting was shut down,” she said.
Veronica Pinto, a retired librarian, said to TMJ News “I think you just need a lot of parental involvement. I always read everything my kids read. Parents should monitor what their children read, but if there are parents who want their children to read these books, they should have a right to read.”
In what looked like a stalemate, parents continued to remain inside the building until board member Hussein Berry returned and addressed parents. “We want to hear from you,” he said.
The meeting will continue on Thursday, October 12th where parents who submitted blue cards will have the opportunity to speak.
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