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Pride, heritage months recognized by Detroit school district in second vote

A blue, pink and white striped Transgender Pride flag hangs on a metal fence between two rainbow striped Pride flags.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District approved a resolution to recognize heritage months during Tuesday’s board meeting, after a previous resolution to recognize Pride Month failed in June.

Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

The Detroit school board unanimously adopted a resolution that recognizes June as Pride Month to support LGBTQ students and the community, just weeks after a similar effort failed.

The resolution approved Tuesday also calls for the Detroit Public Schools Community District to recognize other months that “celebrate the vast diversity of our community.” 

In June, a resolution that asked board members to recognize only Pride Month failed because only four board members were present and one, Corletta Vaughn, voted against the measure. Board policy requires four votes for action items to be approved. 

The resolution was retooled for July to recognize other communities and observances, such as Juneteenth, Arab American Heritage Month, and Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. It also affirms district support for human rights, the strength and resiliency of Detroit residents, and immigrants.

In the past, efforts to recognize heritage months and days of celebration have been brought to the board on an individual basis, said school board President Angelique Peterson-Mayberry.

“What this resolution does is it recognizes not only days but months of diversity, equity and inclusion in our district,” she said.

She added: “What we want people to understand is that whether you work in the district or whether you are a family member who has elected DPSCD to be the institution to educate your young people … they are welcome and we will not be oblivious or turn a blind eye to the differences that we all have as we come into this space.”

The resolution was revised during the meeting to also recognize Hotter Than July, an event organized by the nonprofit group LGBT Detroit to celebrate the local LGBTQ community. Board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, who called for the addition, said Hotter Than July is inclusive of HIV-positive community members and expands on Pride Month.

The decision was met with approval from students who spoke during the school board meeting.

Hafiza Khalique, a rising senior at Cass Technical High School and student organizer with Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan, a youth-run activist group, called Vaughn a “homophobe” over her no vote on the June resolution, and said she looked forward to seeing Vaughn lose her upcoming school board election. Four Detroit school district board seats, including Vaughn’s, are up for grabs in the Nov. 8 election.

“We deserve to be acknowledged, to be celebrated, and to express ourselves during Pride Month and throughout the school year,” said Hafiza, who identifies as queer.

After the meeting, Vaughn dismissed the “homophobe” comment.

“Anybody that knows me knows I’m not that,” she said.

Vaughn said that she was “pleased with the resolution that came back” to the board, calling it “inclusive” of various heritage months.

Hafiza additionally called on the district to end its school dress code, saying that the policy unfairly profiles students of color as well as LGBTQ students. “Mandating uniforms is a way to police Black and brown, queer and trans students, as well as young girls and women and their freedom of expression, as well as to conform them to look like one person,” Hafiza said.

After her comments, Hafiza walked over to board President Peterson-Mayberry and handed her a rainbow Pride flag.

Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at ebakuli@chalkbeat.org.

Grace Tucker is an intern with Chalkbeat Detroit. You can reach her at gtucker@chalkbeat.org.

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