Hearing on bias in Michigan’s K-12 schools set

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will hold a public hearing on the topic of discrimination in Michigan’s K-12 schools.

Detroit — The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will hold a public hearing on the topic of discrimination in Michigan’s K-12 schools.

The hearing, which starts at 3 p.m. Monday at the Wayne County Community College District at 8200 West Outer Drive, will feature personal testimony from high school students and recent graduates and comments from two panels of educators and experts.

One panel will focus on challenges and opportunities facing K-12 education, such as alternative schools, charter schools, virtual schools and public schools.

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, Wayne State education professor Michael Addonizio, and Dan Quisenberry, the head of Michigan’s charter school association, are participating on the panel.

Another panel will focus on challenges and opportunities for students, students of color and students with special needs or disabilities in workforce development initiatives, such as the Marshall Plan for Talent, early/middle college programs and career and technical education programs.

Those panelists are Chioke Mose-Telesford, deputy director of workforce development, city of Detroit; Beverly Brown, the early/middle college manager at the Michigan Department of Education, and Jeremy Hendges, interim director of the state department of talent and economic development.

Vicki Levengood, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said the commission announced in May it would explore the issue of discrimination in K-12 schools.

The decision came after the release of its 2017 report on a year-long investigation into the civil rights implications of the Flint water crisis. During three public hearings and while taking testimony from more than 150 residents, experts and government officials on the Flint crisis, reports of discrimination in K-12 schools based on race also surfaced, Levengood said.

"We were hearing from families and schools about problems there," Levengood said.

After the 2016 presidential election, the department also saw a spike in bias incidents in public schools, Levengood said.

"That opened some eyes to the problems that may take place in public schools," she said.

The public hearing is the fourth the commission has held on discrimination in Michigan’s K-12 schools since May. A fifth hearing is planned for January in Metro Detroit. The location has not been determined.

Members of the Civil Rights Commission plan to write a report with findings after the first of the year which will be given to state lawmakers and the governor and also made public, Levengood said. 

The report recommendations will be targeted toward public and charter schools that receive taxpayer dollars, not private schools.