Chaos, arrests and sour grapes at Detroit school board meeting

Published: Apr. 5, 2007 at 6:09 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 9, 2007 at 12:10 PM EDT
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DETROIT, MI (NBC) - Chaos erupted at a Detroit School Board meeting Wednesday night where members were voting on a school closure plan.

The uproar happened moments before the board was set to vote on a plan to close 34 schools in the cash-strapped district.

Board members, who ducked for cover amid the chaos, reconvened and approved the plan by a 6-4 vote.

There was outrage and anger inside the meeting as residents reacted to the board's change of heart, deciding to close 34 after voting two weeks ago not to close any.

"We do not need to be closing Detroit Public Schools in the city of Detroit," school activist Agnes Hitchcock.

Hitchcock gave the only public comment during the meeting but then began throwing handfuls of grapes at the board members on the stage.

School officials said the grapes hit several board members, including school board vice president Joyce Hayes-Giles, in the chest.

"It was very disruptive and very unacceptable behavior and I do plan to press charges," Hayes-Giles said. "It is unacceptable for anyone to take that kind of action."

Police said Hitchcock was quickly escorted from the meeting.

The scene sent the audience into an uproar, and in the meantime, the board quickly voted for the school closings.

Board members on both sides of the debate are still divided.

"It should save us layoffs, and it should provide us money to fix up the buildings where we will be sending the children," school board member Carla Scott said.

School board member Rev. David Murray said there are a lot of factors that the board still have not addressed.

"You don't close children out of the schools, you open more schools more than anything," Detroit resident Terry Howcott said.

Now, 34 Detroit schools will close at the end of this school year, and another eight are set to close in 2008.

The district is also considering hiring a new superintendent, Connie Calloway, who has a contract to join the district July 1. Calloway still has not signed the contract, school officials said.

Four of the schools have been given special rights to appeal or raise money to stay open.

Murray Wright High School, Millennium High School, Barsamian School Program, and Mackenzie High School all have 30 days to appeal.

Mackenzie High has until July 15 to raise $2 million to fix its building.

Posted by Bryce Mursch