School Board Member Says President's Claim Parents Rushed Meeting Stage Never Happened
Grand Ledge school district was also cited In National School Boards’ letter asking Biden for action
Sara Clark Pierson, president of the Grand Ledge school board, said in local and national interviews (WILX-TV and National Public Radio) that the school board experienced a “mini-January 6 insurrection” during a recent public meeting when parents rushed the stage with their fists up.
But fellow school board member Ben Cwayna says the incident never happened and the parents do not deserve to be labeled as violent.
Cwayna responded to an email which asked if Clark Pierson’s version of the events was accurate, and if the parents who say no such incident happened are telling the truth. He sent the following statement in response:
I am writing in response to your second email regarding this issue below. Please understand that I write to you as a Grand Ledge Board Member. I do not speak for the entirety of the board; only myself.
Normally, the board speaks with one voice through the president to the press and I am usually reluctant to speak on such issues. However, I do feel that this issue should be addressed and the record corrected. I had originally hoped that the record would be corrected at Monday’s meeting with regard to the allegation within the WILX article that parents rushed and took over the stage at the June 14th meeting. Unfortunately, it was not corrected and only addressed obliquely.
I was present at the June 14th meeting in my capacity as a board member. At no time did any member of the audience take over the stage at the meeting. I witnessed no rushing of the stage or fists being shown. In fact, when the recess was called, I stayed in my chair on the stage and eventually walked down and chatted with some in the audience. If I am not mistaken, one other board member (Jarrod Smith) stayed in his chair as well for awhile and may have walked down into the audience area while we waited for the meeting to reconvene.
While the meeting was loud, spirited, and at times, raucous, there was absolutely no violence, threat of violence, or anything of the sort. Had there been, I am sure the authorities would have been called and proper action taken against the offenders. I am unsure where the WILX reporter got information that the stage was taken over. It most certainly was not.
I cannot comment on board member’s interactions with members of the public before or after meetings while walking to their car; however, after that specific meeting, a few of the board members (including the new superintendent) stayed behind and talked to members of the public in the auditorium and outside in the parking lot.
I believe equating what occurred on June 14th to any violent event is not an accurate or fair comparison and only serves to heighten the tensions and ill will in an already very fractured community. The people speaking out at these meetings do not deserve to be labeled as violent. Mistaking the passion and anger displayed by parents as a result of being ignored for over a year should not be equated with anything violent. Many of the people in the audience that evening were well respected community members and leaders, parents, neighbors, and genuinely concerned people.”
Lansing activist John Clore video records public meetings with a group called “US Against Media.” He said Clark Pierson’s statement that parents were yelling about taking the seats of board members is false.
He said, “The entire assembly left without calling a proper recess or giving a formal adjournment. From my understanding, according to Roberts Rules of Order, at this time the floor can call a motion to fill those positions that have been abandoned by the assembly. I stated this to the parents in which we all decided to not proceed with filling the seats as it may turn out to look the way they are trying to spin it.”
The Grand Ledge district was mentioned in the footnotes of a letter sent by the National School Board Association to President Joe Biden, asking him to take action regarding parents whose "threats of violence" and "acts of intimidation" at school board meetings it equated to “domestic terrorism.” The National School Board Association later put out a memo apologizing for the letter.
In her interview with WILX, Clark Pierson also mentioned a bill in the Michigan Legislature, Senate Bill 689, which would add extra penalties for assaulting or hurting school personnel. Clark Pierson said it does not go far enough and should also allow school boards to ban parents they consider disruptive from future meetings.
In her interview with NPR, she said: “We used to see people who would shout, and occasionally follow me to my car. ... Now what we’re seeing are people who rush at the stage with their fists in the air shouting at us. Yelling at me, as board president, saying, ‘Take her seat, we’ll run this meeting.’"
In an email, Clark Pierson stood by her claim: "I said they ran at the stage. They did and they were screaming and had their arms and fists in the air."
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.