City of East Lansing, school district commit to inclusion

Posted at 7:07 AM, Dec 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 07:07:54-05

It's the final school board meeting of 2016 for the East Lansing school district, and Thasin Sardar of the Islamic Center of East Lansing wishes there wasn't a need to discuss inclusion.

"It's 2016. It's almost 2017," Sardar says emphatically. "It's unfortunate that we have to be reminded about [the] diverse community we live in and how we are to respect each other."

This is on the heels of a threatening letter sent to the Islamic center, coupled with hateful speech seen around the area.

That's why the school board wants people to know that they are welcome in the community no matter their background, race, or sexual orientation, which is comforting for Sardar.

"It's very reassuring to our entire community," he explains, "because of the prevailing climate of fear and mistrust. It sends a very strong signal that the city is here to care for us and it gives us a sense of belonging here in the city."

That's because it's not just the school district, but the city of East Lansing as well. The joint resolution between the two aims to fight discrimination and hatred across East Lansing.

"Our community, our schools, our city, we are really a place that we want to welcome people from all backgrounds, all walks of life," claims Erin Graham, one of the authors of the resolution and a member of the East Lansing school board.

The key to being that welcoming place is finding a way to stop hatred. Which is one of the goals of the joint resolution that highlights previous policies and ordinances that banned discrimination in East Lansing. Sardar says the key is learning:

"If anyone is resorting to such acts, it's out of ignorance and we want to use education to work on ignorance."

Which is why he says this message from the school district and city will help repel ignorance and discrimination, like the letter, and build a welcoming, inclusive community for the future.

East Lansing is expected to vote on the resolution at the city council meeting Wednesday night.