Education Beat: Flint Ed Board badly divided on two “safety” issues — clear backpacks, legal reimbursement

By Harold C. Ford

“Enhancing safety measures, such as a clear backpack policy, should not need debate, nor should it take months to implement.” – Bruce Jordan, Michigan Education Association UniServ Director, reacting to a Flint Board of Education  vote rejecting a clear backpack policy

“I think we’re basing this on emotions and not evidence-based research.” –Laura MacIntyre, Flint Board of Education trustee, during discussion of a clear backpack policy, Feb. 15, 2023

At its Feb. 15 regular meeting, the seven members of the Flint Board of Education (FBOE) found themselves badly divided on two issues of “safety” – one involving the district’s approximate 3,000 students, the other focused primarily on one member of the board. 

Flint Board of Education meets in the Accelerated Learning Academy. (Photo by Tom Travis)

On the very day tens of thousands rallied across the state and the nation mourning the victims of the Feb. 13 mass shooting at Michigan State University (MSU), Flint’s education board defeated a motion to require clear backpacks for the district’s approximate 3,000 students.

FBOE President Michael Clack began the Feb. 15 meeting calling for a moment of silence for the MSU victims – three dead and five others fighting for their lives in Lansing-area hospitals.

Also at the Feb. 15 meeting, a second issue of “safety” was raised by FBOE Secretary Claudia Perkins near the meeting’s end. Perkins clearly referenced the safety of FBOE members, specifically that of Trustee Laura MacIntyre after an alleged assault on MacIntyre by former FBOE member Danielle Green on March 23, 2022.

Perkins and MacIntyre excoriated the decision one week earlier by four FBOE members – Clack, Vice President Terae King, Treasurer Dylan Luna, and Trustee Melody Relerford – to reimburse Green’s legal fees. With raised voice, Perkins declared, in part: 

“Safety …. We have an obligation as a board to protect everybody up here [pointing to FBOE members on the auditorium stage at Accelerated Learning Academy] … I am an advocate for a victim over an abuser.”

“It’s a matter of safety … ethics … morality,” MacIntyre said in support of Perkins. 

[A fuller accounting of comments by Perkins and MacIntyre is found below.]

Earlier in the same meeting, both Perkins and MacIntyre voted against the proposed clear backpack measure introduced as a safety measure for students; the proposal was supported by, among others, Flint Community Schools (FCS) Superintendent Kevelin Jones and Bruce Jordan, Michigan Education Association UniServ Director representing the United Teachers of Flint (UTF). 


A motion by Luna, supported by King, to require and provide clear backpacks for the district’s approximate 3,000 students confirmed the emergence of voting blocs on Flint’s newly-formed school board following the November, 2022 election. But this time, Relerford became a swing vote that led to the defeat of Luna’s motion. 

“We’ve been talking about this [backpack policy] for weeks,” Luna said.  “It’s just one [step] to keep our schools, staff, and community members safe … The unfortunate incidents at Michigan State highlight the need for us to be proactive.”  

“This is about safety,” said Jones, himself a parent of a sixth-grader at Doyle/Ryder. “This is a concern for teachers and this is a concern for principals … The teachers are saying to us, ‘Yes, absolutely, we want this.’” 

A statement provided East Village Magazine (EVM) by Michigan Education Association UniServ Director Bruce Jordan read, in part: 

“I do not believe that this is merely a ‘backpack’ issue. Increasing safety measures, whether it be clear backpacks, adding additional building-level security personnel, investing in more entryway metal detectors for all buildings, or providing districtwide bookbag scanners at all entrances, is the issue. The Flint Community Schools’ central administration … the United Teachers of Flint, and the building administrators are in lockstep with this issue.” 


Critics of the clear backpack proposal cited lack of input by stakeholders, especially parents:

  • Perkins: “We needed to hear something from them (parents).”
  • Relerford: “I don’t think we’ve heard from every teacher and every parent.”

Luna said FBOE members had nearly a month to seek input from the community since the issue of backpacks came before the board on Jan. 19. Since then, Luna said, he’d met with parents, teachers, and principals on the matter. 

FBOE Treasurer Dylan Luna. (Photo by Tom Travis)

“Get in the community, get in the schools, and ask these questions,” said a frustrated Luna while rapping repeatedly on the table with his hand. “This is a clear example of the board getting in the way of good policy.” 


“I think we’re basing this on emotions and not evidence-based research,” MacIntyre claimed. 

Research on the effectiveness of clear backpacks is scarce and endorsements are less than ringing as suggested in a Nov. 6, 2019 piece by Bloomberg News’s Sarah Holder:

“Since the 1990s, transparent plastic book bags have been promoted as a security solution after school shootings and terror attacks. But their true effects are hazy … Along with active-shooter drills, metal detectors, and visitor’s badges, the transparent accessories are now familiar elements in the security theater that laces the American public education experience … But what, if anything, do these (clear backpacks) accomplish to improve public safety?”


FCS Assistant Superintendent Keiona Murphy told board members the cost to provide backpacks to the district’s approximate 3,000 students would be $36,000 and that government funding was available to cover the cost.

Relerford and Perkins questioned that cost of providing 3,000 clear backpacks.

Luna estimated the cost at .00024 percent of the district’s nearly $150 million in COVID relief funds. “There’s no price tag on keeping scholars safe,” he said.

Before the clear backpack policy was voted down, Clack said,  “I would hate to have to be the one to have to explain to one of the parents if something were to happen that, ‘We just wanted to save money.’”

Voting against the clear backpack proposal: Perkins; Ellis-McNeal; MacIntyre; and Relerford.

Voting for: Clack; King; and Luna. 

[The entire 35-minute FBOE discussion on Feb. 15 about clear backpacks can be viewed at YouTube from about 2:45 to 3:20.]


“We support criminality.”

At the Feb. 15 FBOE meeting, Perkins, newly-elected FBOE treasurer, seemed incensed by the board’s four-vote decision a week earlier to pay $6,000 for the legal expenses encumbered by former member Green following her alleged assault upon MacIntyre. 

“I was not in favor of paying for someone that assaulted somebody,” Perkins said.  “If anyone of us are hurt in any way, shape, or form, we should be protected,” she said, pointing to other board members. “I saw the previous board unanimously remove that lady [Green] from the presidency because they all witnessed the beatdown [of MacIntyre] … The precedent was set that we support criminality.”

Relerford, who made the motion at the board’s Feb. 8 meeting to pay Green’s fees, defended the move: “I wanted to get it off the district … This district needs to move forward … I’m just asking that we move on and stop rehashing the past.”  

FBOE Trustee Melody Relerford. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Luna echoed Relerford’s sentiment: “I’m going to focus … on students and scholars and driving them forward and not rehashing old battles that we’ve already moved on.”

“I’m going to vote my conscience and I’m gonna move on,” King added. 

“Trust, transparency, I don’t see it.”

Perkins and Ellis-McNeal charged violations of policy and Michigan’s Open Meetings Act from which Perkins, in part, recited:

“A board may not meet informally in advance of a public meeting to determine what will be decided formally at the public meeting.”

“Do you have proof that there’s been a meeting you haven’t been invited to?” Clack quickly asked. 

“Obviously, something happened,” Perkins shot back. “In my mind, someone met and talked.” 

Claudia Perkins being sworn in as a Trustee of the Flint Board of Education. (Photo by HC Ford)

King responded: “Terae King Jr., that was elected, did not meet informally. I was elected to be a person of integrity … I make my own decision … I’m disappointed I’m accused.”

Perkins claimed a two-thirds vote of the board was needed to rescind the previous action of the board when it voted not to pay Green’s fees. Ellis-McNeal additionally argued the board violated Robert’s Rules of Order and FBOE Bylaws.

Referencing the vote to pay Green’s legal fees on Feb. 8 without mentioning the amount, Perkins charged: “Trust, transparency — I don’t see it.” 

“How can you even look me in the eye?”

The critical comments by Perkins and Ellis-McNeal about payment of Green’s legal fees preceded a verbal broadside from MacIntyre directed at the top two FCS administrators and the four new board members who ran as a coalition in the November, 2022 election – Clack, King, Luna, and Relerford. 

FBOE Trustee Laura MacIntyre. (Photo by Tom Travis)

“Four of you voted for something that was not proper,” MacIntyre alleged “How can you even look me in the eye and justify your support of this [payment of Green’s legal fees]?”

“I’m at a loss why the assaulter [Green] … is getting any legal consideration,” MacIntyre continued. “You all saw what happened; it was completely one-sided.”

“I’m ashamed of this district”

MacIntyre also charged Jones and Assistant Superintendent Keiona Murphy with being “silent and complicit.” 

MacIntyre continued: “We already have an atmosphere that’s charged with violence and threats and harassment and to make [this] decision, whether explicitly or tacitly, is … sending a horrible example to the district and to the students.”

“I’m ashamed of this district,” MacIntyre said. “Shame on all of you for sitting here and being complicit with this.” 

The Flint board then quickly voted to end the meeting.

EVM Education Writer Harold C. Ford can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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