News Story

Grand Ledge School Board Member Apologizes For School Policies

Editor's note: This story was altered to clarify Ben Cwayna's comment.

Ben Cwayna, a member of the Grand Ledge Public Schools Board of Education, apologized to parents at a Feb. 17 meeting for district COVID-19 policies that closed classrooms and provided online-only instruction during most of the 2020-21 school year. He said he also felt the school board had not served parents well over the last two years and admitted to removing his own son from the district because he did not like what was happening.

Cwayna said he does not believe allegations levied by some school officials that parents are racists or insurrectionists because they shared concerns at a June 14, 2021, board meeting about the district’s decision to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Parents had also questioned whether critical race theory was being taught and expressed their disapproval of keeping school doors closed to students long after the state lifted its order that districts do this.

As previously reported, Sara Clark Pierson, who was school board president at the June meeting, criticized some parents who were in attendance. She told WILX-TV and National Public Radio in October 2021 that parents rushed the stage with their fists in the air, adding that they conducted a “mini-January 6 insurrection.” Responding to a request for comment on the meeting, Cwayna said that Pierson’s account was not accurate. Several board members, he said, stayed afterward and talked with parents in the auditorium.

Julie Boruta, a special education teacher in the district, took to Facebook to call the parents white supremacists and “Q talking point supporters.” She wrote those comments during school hours on the day after that meeting.

The Grand Ledge school board unanimously voted to lift the mask mandate for all students at its Feb. 17, 2022, meeting, which prompted Cwayna’s apology.

Amber Redman is a parent who previously attended the board meetings and had pulled her student from the district. She said she’s grateful that Cwayna is “clearing up the wrongful image painted of many valuable members in the community. I felt his apology was courageous, and was a step in the right direction for healing a very fractured Grand Ledge community.”

She says that although she feels the apology came from the wrong board member, it is nice to receive validation for the extreme hardship parents faced as a result of the school board.

Pierson and three other school board members didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.