By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — A mother of two students in Dearborn Heights District No. 7 has been speaking out in order to have racial issues her two children have been facing while at school addressed.
Most recently, Barbara Young was joined by others who shared their thoughts on racism within the district during the D7 Board of Education virtual meeting Sept. 16.
She asked to address an email since it was about her family, but was told she couldn’t because of board policy. Board President Mandy Diroff said she had to stop Young because her issue was not related to operations of schools and is personally directed to the superintendent.
Young then asked if the board was aware of Supt. Jennifer Mast sending the aforementioned email, but no response was given and Young was muted.
Diroff said Young was muted during the conversation because individuals cannot personally be abusive toward the board.
Before that, Young said she previously asked Mast why her personal information was given out in which Mast responded with a message Young should make reports with the principals at schools her students attend.
Mast was accused of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in an email which contained private information about the two Young children that was sent to city council members.
During the board meeting, Young said her daughter has been speaking to the principal but her son’s principal has not called back to speak about what happened at school.
Young took her allegations of racism to Dearborn Heights City Council meetings seeking help after she said her two children were insulted with racial slurs at school.
She claimed that her sister also is faced with the issue of white students asking for permission to use a racial slur.
Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell told Young that the council did not have any authority over the school district.
The incident was reported to a coach and not administration, such as principals, which Mast learned by following up with Young. Mast said she was unaware the incident took place and principals said they were also not made aware of the incident occurring.
Young told the city council that Mast was made aware of the incident in February, but the February meeting between the two centered around the district’s black history curriculum instead, Mast said.
Mast told the Arab American News that the district has a strict zero tolerance policy.
“We take these types of issues very seriously,” she said. “We do not disregard any of these types of issues. It’s unfortunate and terrible that her kids have experienced this, but we cannot do anything if we don’t know about it.”
After Young spoke at the city council meeting with no results, she went back to the board along with others who alleged racism in the district.
Leslie Windless is one of the individuals who is regularly seen and heard at local meetings providing black history lessons and asking that more black history be implemented in the curriculum.
She also was stopped from speaking during the Sept. 16 board meeting after mentioning the email which was personally directed at Mast.
Young said she wants more support for black families and diversity training so racism no longer happens or is tolerated in the district.
At the Sept. 16 board meeting Mast said she attended a conference on diversity, inclusion and equity which made her want to include racial equity training to be included in the staff professional development initiatives from the 2020-21 school year.
Through Wayne County RESA Mast arranged to start the initiative beginning with a virtual meeting Sept. 17 between consultants and administration team.
The administrative group received an outlined plan from the consultants for the trainings for the year and then staff will receive workshops throughout the year.
“We do go into those trainings with the expectation that teachers will be learning how to deal with things that they might be having go on in their classrooms or hallways with students, that they can assist with as well,” Mast said. “So it all starts at the top and works its way down.”
Also, the board will be invited to participate on a possible committee or workshop and parents will have opportunities to give input and be involved through conversations with parents.
Windless and Young were joined by others to protest outside the board’s office the morning of Sept. 17 where they reportedly shouted expletives.
Mast said those were heard in the classroom causing teachers to close their windows.
The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])