News Story

Parents Say School Board President’s Description Of ‘Spirited’ Meeting Is Bunk

She called it an insurrection; parents, media, even a union blog report no such thing

Parents who attended a Grand Ledge school board meeting June 14 say they feel disparaged and slandered by the board president. In a story aired by WILX-TV, the president said the meeting abruptly ended when parents stormed the stage with their fists up.

Sara Clark Pierson, president of the Grand Ledge school board, compared the June 14 meeting to another public event held earlier this year. “It really smacks of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. And I think many of us on the board felt that we had just experienced a mini Jan. 6th.”

Clark Pierson said people rushed the stage with their fists up and screamed into the faces of board members, just three to four inches away, as they walked to their cars.

Parents who were there say that did not happen and say that local news reports and videos of the meetings may confirm their claim.

Erin Jones, a parent who has removed two of her children from district but still has one enrolled, disputes Clark Pierson’s account.

“I was present at the June 14, 2021, Grand Ledge school board meeting. At no time did I witness anyone crowding board members’ personal space while screaming or shaking their fists. To have such accusations leveled at a large group of concerned parents, who were exercising their legitimate rights to address school board policies, is inaccurate and insulting. And quite, honest flat-out lies. If it was so scary for our board members, why did [Grand Ledge Superintendent Marcus] Davenport, [trustee Patrick] McKennon, [trustee Jon] Shiflett and [trustee] Ben [Cwayna] all stay for 45 minutes to an hour after the meeting to talk to parents in the auditorium?”

A June 15 Lansing State Journal story on the meeting made no mention of it being shut down, or of parents rushing the stage. “The meeting’s public comment portion went on for so long,” it said, “that the board did not take any action on the remaining agenda, Director of Communications John Ellsworth confirmed.”

A blog post from the Michigan Education Association, parent of the local teachers union, contained no mention of parents rushing the stage. It read, “In Grand Ledge, west of Lansing, a June 14 school board meeting ended without completing the agenda when the crowd would not stop yelling and board members could not hear each other. When a recess was called, one audience member was heard threatening to physically take over the seat of the school board president during the break. Shouting continued after the meeting.”

The Lansing newspaper also covered a June 21 school board meeting, reporting that the new superintendent, Marcus Davenport, “called the previous week's meeting ‘interesting’ and joked that Monday’s turnout set the bar for future meetings.”

Videos taken at that meeting shows Davenport addressing the current issues and tensions. He said, “And certain individuals have said to me, that people apologize. And I said, there’s no need to apologize, because as parents you spoke your truth. You spoke your concerns.” He also acknowledged one parent he spoke to after the meeting, Amber Redman, reporting that he pledged to her to be a listener and a leader.

Redman dismissed Clark Pierson’s allegations: “At no time did I ever see parents or anyone take over the stage, raise their fist at the board or scream 3-4 inches from (board members) faces. These false accusations from board President Sara Clark Pierson never occurred.”

She says the board meeting didn’t end because of rowdy parents, but it “abruptly ended because of a board member’s outburst/disruption of another board member’s motion, where the disruptive board member made a disparaging comment toward parents. The audience verbally responded, it was spirited, but never were there any threatening actions, takeovers, or insurrections.”

Redman says the tactics the board is using against parents who address their concerns are disgusting, as is the fact they are being labeled as domestic terrorists. She views it as an effort to silence parents and push recently introduced legislation from to authorize prison and fines for assaults or threats aimed at school board members and staff.

Clark Pierson said, “I believe the video of the meeting is incomplete and does not include the activities of the public before the second recess. The district did not record the meeting. I stand by my comments.”

When asked whether the news reports and parents’ accounts stating it did not happen and whether Superintendent Davenport’s comments surrounding the June 14 meeting were accurate or inaccurate, she replied, “inaccurate.”

Davenport did not 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.