State Sen. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, meets with members of Grosse Pointe North High School’s chapter of Students Demand Action June 6.

State Sen. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, meets with members of Grosse Pointe North High School’s chapter of Students Demand Action June 6.

Photo provided by office of Kevin Hertel

Revised gun violence resolution not considered by school board

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 17, 2024

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — In a top the rust orange shade of a fallen autumn tree leaf, Mary Fraser, of Grosse Pointe Park — mother of slain Grosse Pointe Public School System graduate Brian Fraser — addressed the Grosse Pointe Board of Education May 28 on a painful topic she knows personally.

“Never in my worst nightmare did I think I would be standing up in front of the school board tonight talking about my son being the murdered victim of a gunshot,” Fraser said of her only son, who was killed in a mass shooting at his college, Michigan State University, on Feb. 13, 2023. “He was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was at MSU, working in the union in the back kitchen, making sandwiches. Someone with a gun who was deranged came in, fired three bullets, one of which went through my son’s head and killed him instantly. … These are things that happen and they should never have happened, and I’m here to tell you I hope that none of you ever have to firsthand witness it occurring, but it’s a reality and we can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend like it’s not happening. … Nothing that you do is going to bring my son back, ever. However … as our leaders, I think it’s important that you stand up and say this is important to us and we want to make a difference. Just teaching these kids how to hide under their desks is not going to make a difference.”

Fraser’s comments came in the wake of the board’s decision not to recognize Wear Orange Day, an event that coincides with National Gun Violence Awareness Day the first Friday in June — June 7 this year. Students from the Grosse Pointe North High School chapter of Students Demand Action had asked the board to approve a resolution in recognition of Wear Orange Day, but the resolution failed by a vote of 5-2 May 2, with board members Valarie St. John and Colleen Worden voting in favor of it and board President Sean Cotton and board members Ismail Ahmed, Terrence Collins, Virginia “Ginny” Jeup and Lisa Papas voting against it.

Some of the board members who rejected the resolution did so citing several reasons, including concerns that the organization behind the Wear Orange movement was partisan. That organization, Everytown for Gun Safety is a grassroots group but does support political candidates who, according to their website, “have demonstrated that they will govern with gun safety.”

The board had been expected to take up a more general resolution acknowledging National Gun Violence Awareness Day at its May 28 meeting.

During the portion of the meeting when the May 6 regular meeting minutes were to be approved, St. John noted that the minutes indicated the board’s willingness to consider an alternate version of the gun violence awareness resolution she presented at the May 6 meeting. She observed that there was no place on the May 28 meeting agenda for the board to vote on a revised resolution.

Cotton refused to entertain St. John’s request, stating, “This is a time to make corrections to the minutes.”

“I’m not allowed to speak because you don’t like what I’m saying?” St. John asked him.

“No,” Cotton responded. “We have important business (to conduct).”

Fraser wasn’t the only resident to speak to the school board May 28 on the gun violence resolution issue.

“I think it’s shameful. … We are all community members who are responsible for the (safety) of these kids,” Michelle White, of Grosse Pointe Park, said.

Lauren Kaled, of Grosse Pointe Woods, co-founder of the North chapter of Students Demand Action, expressed disappointment.

“Every day I walk into the school I call home … and hope I will be able to walk out,” Kaled said. “Only in America do students run away from bullets at their graduation ceremonies. … We are kids, but we are taking action. You are adults — when will you?”

Some school officials responded during their comments at the end of the meeting, including Papas, who told Fraser, “My sincere — just — sadness and heartbreak over the loss of your son. I can’t imagine the pain.”

Worden, a prosecutor, spoke directly to Fraser as well.

“As a member of law enforcement, I know gun violence has touched so many lives,” Worden said. “I’m very sorry that our board did not recognize this very simple resolution that recognizes what an epidemic gun violence is.”

Grosse Pointe Public School Superintendent Andrea Tuttle addressed Fraser at the end of the meeting and also spoke with her privately afterward.

“There’s no words, but know that you were heard tonight,” Tuttle told her. “We all have the choice to wear orange. I’m going to wear orange.”

North students, along with community members, held events including a gun violence awareness panel discussion during Wear Orange Weekend June 7-9.

On June 6, state Sen. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores — whose district includes the Grosse Pointes — met with member of North’s Students Demand Action group.

“I was humbled to meet with young advocates from Grosse Pointe North High School today to learn more about their experiences and discuss ways we can work together to build safer communities for all who call our state home,” Hertel said in a press release. “Their dedication, tenacity, and hope — even in the face of inaction from leaders who are supposed to represent their interests and look out for their well-being — is inspiring. I look forward to continuing our partnership as we strive to create a future free from gun violence.”