BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Yesterday, the Birmingham Public Schools (BPS) Board of Education held a meeting during which they took public comment on requiring masks for individuals working in or entering school buildings. During that meeting, members of the public against such a mandate repeatedly interrupted, harassed, and yelled over fellow concerned community members, including schoolchildren; one community member stood up during the public comment period, gave a Nazi-style salute and yelled “Heil Hitler”, which was then repeated by two fellow attendees. In response, Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham) and Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), both graduates of Birmingham Public Schools, issued the following statements:
“I am shocked and appalled to see the use of racist, Nazi language and imagery in our community, particularly by parents attending a school board meeting. Let me be clear: racism, anti-Semitism, and any other forms of bigotry and hate have no room in our discourse or our community, and I forcefully condemn the use of this phrase and gesture at yesterday’s Board of Education meeting,” said Rep. Manoogian. “For the last 18 months, our state, country, and world have suffered a collective trauma. But the use of Nazi phrases and gestures is beyond the pale in any context; it disrespects the memory of those murdered in the Holocaust and dishonors the values of our community. Actions such as these must be forced out from our society as every level, and we must resume engaging with each other in the spirit of understanding, kindness, and mutual respect – themes which form the core of the values taught within BPS.
“Now, as our state looks to stave off another, more transmissible, and potentially more deadly, variant of the coronavirus, unity, solidarity, and collective responsibility are more clearly than ever our way forward out of this crisis. I commend our BPS Board of Education members and Superintendent Roberson for their leadership in standing strong against the tide of bigoted, anti-science, and completely ahistorical hate spewed against them yesterday, and stand in strong support of the establishment of any measures which will help protect our children, teachers, support staff, and community at-large from further spread of illness and death.”
“The Holocaust was the systematic state-sponsored persecution and annihilation of European Jews and others. As someone with family members who suffered heinous and violent deaths at the hands of Nazis, I can assure this BPS community member that the Holocaust is not a school board meeting,” said Sen. Moss. “I’m proud of our bipartisan efforts a few years ago to require historically-accurate instruction of the Holocaust in Michigan school curriculum so Birmingham Schools students, and students all throughout Michigan, will understand its lasting lessons — and that protesting health measures during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic is not one of those lessons.
“I thank the Birmingham School Board and administration for protecting our students and rejecting the anti-Semitism that callously dismisses one of the worst horrors in human history.”