Michigan Board of Education member’s comments draw ire from teachers union president: ‘This seems really, really petty’

Tom McMillin claims educators are being hostile toward parents with COVID safety protocols

A big topic of conversation at the Michigan Department of Education regular board meeting on Tuesday was the impact of the COVID pandemic and the acute shortage of teachers.

The struggle to find and retain teachers is one of the topics at the Michigan State Board of Education meeting.

This week’s meeting focused on the teacher shortage and how to deal with it, but it was what board member Tom McMillin, of Oakland County, said that caught the ire of the president of Michigan’s largest teachers union.

“As more people pull their kids out of public education due to this hostility towards parents and the unnecessary and harmful masking and who knows, probably vaccine requirements,” McMillin said during the meeting.

Paula Herbart, the president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the largest teachers union in the state, said that statement does not help coax teachers back into the classroom during a massive teacher shortage.

“When teachers already have a full plate and they’re already feeling demoralized and deprofessionalized, and then a comment like this,” said Herbart.

We reported on the board meetings where parents, who are anti-mask and anti-vax, have created a threatening atmosphere, yet this is how McMillin sees it:

“There needs to be an elimination of the hostility of many in the education community toward parents, and this hostility needs to stop,” he said.

McMillin has a long career in public education. He’s a former Republican member of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, former Michigan state representative and former mayor of Auburn Hills.

Herbart said his words are not based on science.

“The science says that this is how we will protect each and every student who goes to school in a public school. That’s not being harassing. That’s asking students to follow rules as set by somebody other than the educator in the classroom and they’re doing their job for the students of Michigan like they always do,” she said.

Herbart said McMillin’s words matter to her teachers.

“Standing up for all of the students and one another who have all experienced trauma over the last almost two years, and this seems really, really petty,” she said.


About the Author:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.