Dearborn school board meeting ends after large crowd piles into conference room

School board members at Dearborn cut their Monday meeting short after a crowd upset with how the district reviews books packed into the conference room. 

The crowd, numbering about a hundred strong, brought signs and chanted against the school board members. Many vented their concerns about content in books that discusses sexuality.

Eventually the group was forced to leave after the school board said the crowd had created a fire hazard. The meeting cancelation only fired the crowd up more.

"I am the one who is going to deliver a message to everybody: We are not going to tolerate the school board walking out," said one man as he left the building.

"We are not against anybody, we are not against homosexuality, we all have our beliefs - but this has nothing to do with that. We're here just to talk about the books and the pornography in these books," said another man.

The subject of books has become a contentious topic in schools in the U.S. Where debates over mask policies in districts became heated in 2021, this year its books with themes of LGBTQ and racial identity that have become the target of criticism by some parents. 

In one of the more contentious examples, a west Michigan library weighed needing to shut down after voters from Jameston Township rejected a millage that funds the facility. Funding from other sources eventually helped the library stay open.

In Dearborn, the criticism was sparked over how the district reviews which books it allows in its library. According to a release from the school system, the district now has new criteria for how libraries evaluate which books are okay - as well as how parents can address concerns about specific titles.

There is also an opt-out form that parents can use to limit specific titles.

"We realize the community has many strong feelings on both sides of the issue of limiting student access to some books," said Superintendent Glenn Maleyko.  "We work hard to make sure our schools are welcoming, safe spaces for all students, and our libraries will continue to reflect that as well.  However, we are also aware that the vast majority of students in our care are minors, still learning about life and the world, and they are not ready emotionally or intellectually to process some content."

The boisterous meeting was first recessed until the school board could get in touch with the fire marshal. Soon after, the police chief suspended the meeting. 

It has since been rescheduled for Fordson High School, which is a larger venue capable of housing more people. It is set for Thursday.