The Michigan Library Association (MLA) and the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME) are committed to doing everything we can, in our libraries, schools, and communities to promote justice and equality for all. It has come to our attention that a white media assistant that works in the library at Ganiard Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, cut the hair of a biracial child without parental permission.
MLA and MAME are using our voices as representatives of all Michigan libraries and library workers, including school libraries, to stand in support of 7-year-old Jurnee Hoffmeyer.
It is unacceptable that a library worker in a Michigan school library would cut the hair of a child without parental permission. This is a violation of Jurnee’s civil rights and an assault on her person. We believe the media assistant and any others that were involved in cutting Jurnee's hair should be held accountable and disciplined. We are outraged that school leadership, including the principal and superintendent, did not immediately address this atrocious, racist and violent act of a white staff member cutting the hair of a BIPOC individual. We call on school leadership to support Jurnee and take the actions necessary to educate school staff on the history, causes, and consequences of structural racism in the United States.
We want to make clear that the media assistant who perpetrated these acts is not a “librarian,” she is not a “teacher,” and she is not a “media specialist” as defined by the Michigan Department of Education. But she does represent the library profession even as a media assistant/paraprofessional, and this is why MLA and MAME must address this. MLA and MAME believe that our K-12 schools are best served when a certified school librarian, who has a valid Michigan teaching certificate with a Library Media (ND) endorsement, is hired to work directly with our students in these critical positions. Their professionalism, high principles and values, and the code of ethics to which they are committed are embodied in their extensive training.
As a result of this egregious behavior, the Michigan Library Association and the Michigan Association for Media in Education call on Michigan lawmakers to amend the 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and support and enact House Bill 4275 – Michigan CROWN Act – as sponsored by Representative Sarah Anthony, specifically created to prohibit discrimination against hair texture and hairstyle choices. We also call on Michigan lawmakers to support and enact bills HB4663, HB4664, and HB4665 that are being introduced by Representative Camilleri, Representative Koleszar, and Representative O’Neal to ensure that no child is without access to a certified school librarian.
When horrific actions and behaviors like those outlined are brought to our attention, we must all stand united and speak out when anyone is threatened, marginalized, and discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity.