News Story

Parents Upset After State Senator Calls School Board Meeting ‘Hostile’

The Livonia Democrat has bill imposing more prison time for hurting or injuring school-related personnel

State Sen. Dayna Polehanki is being criticized by Livonia residents who say they are upset she characterized a school board meeting as “hostile.” In the meeting, a woman not wearing a face mask, citing health reasons, was required to leave, and did so in the company of police officers.

Polehanki, a Democrat from Livonia who is a former public school teacher, made her comments at a state Senate committee hearing on Oct. 19. Five days earlier, she had introduced a bill to authorize a one-year enhanced sentence for assaulting or endangering school employees, board members, or contractors.

The meeting she mentioned in her comments happened the day before, at a Livonia Public Schools Board of Education meeting. Polehanki’s chief of staff is Dan Centers, who is a trustee on the Livonia school board and was present at the meeting.

Polehanki’s description of the school board meeting has upset parents who were in attendance.

“I haven’t heard about parents being labeled as terrorists,” Polehanki said. “But I will tell you that my chief of staff, who is sitting behind me right now, is also a school board member. And last night he texted me from the back room of a school board meeting where the school Board members were overrun by hostile, screaming people opposing the school’s mask mandate, which was administered by the health department.”

Polehanki continued: “The police were called, and it was ugly, and that’s why I introduced a bill to stop it.”

A report from Livonia police makes no mention of any of the allegations Polehanki made. Michigan Capitol Confidential obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The police report states that school board President Colleen Burton told police that “[Local resident Tanya] Hug was causing a disturbance by refusing to wear a mask and causing the board meeting to stop.” There is no other mention of disturbances in the report.

The website was the first to question the accuracy of Polehanki’s comments.

A YouTube video of the public meeting does not reveal anything to support Polehanki’s version of events. There is a one-hour break, when the board took a recess, that was not recorded. It was during this time the woman was escorted out by police.

There is video of Tanya Hug being interviewed by police officers at the meeting. But the conversation was not animated, and there were no raised voices on either side.

Hug was so bothered by Polehanki’s comments that she sent the state senator a letter. She also sent a copy of the letter to Michigan Capitol Confidential.

“We, the parents from Livonia have video evidence of the lies she told. Including an entire video of me speaking with the police calmly and politely both inside and outside the building,” Hug wrote. She said she was allowed into the meeting despite wearing no mask because she presented a notice from a disabilities advocate, which cited the Americans with Disabilities Act. Security personnel reviewed the document and allowed her inside, she said.

Hug said that once she was inside the meeting, Burton announced that everyone had to wear a mask.

When Hug tried to respond, Burton spoke over her, hit the gavel and said the meeting was going into recess.

Hug said Burton offered her a visor. She declined, saying her ADA paperwork states she can’t wear a face mask or covering of any type.

She said she left after being questioned by police.

“I walked out of the building with the police officers after speaking with them and that was it,” Hug said. “There was not one moment of raised voices; there was not a moment of arguing: there wasn't even a moment of somebody being upset.”

Hug said that the Livonia police officer also told her that if she came back to another meeting, she could be arrested for trespassing.

Burton, Polehanki and Centers did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Some Livonia residents have used social media to protest Polehanki’s comments.

Reina Vendramini posted a message on Facebook that she had sent to Centers. “Dan Centers, you are on notice,” she told the trustee.

Vendramini continued, “Fabricating this insane depiction out of thin air in order to create public outrage and support for her ridiculous bill designs to limit free speech. … I have no respect for liars.”

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.