Fenton discusses equality badges at recent board meeting


Sylvia Kline, Editor

On Monday, April 10 the Fenton Area Public Schools (FAPS) held their school board meeting in the FHS media center. Typically board meetings are held in the administration building, but the location changed in preparation for the highly anticipated sizable crowd. 

The expectation of a large crowd was fulfilled with 27 speakers taking the floor in support and opposition to the badges. 22 spoke in support, while the remaining five spoke against the badges.

The badges include the statement “Equality; stronger together” and display icons including; the handicapped symbol, the Black Lives Matter icon, a gender equality icon and an array of LGBTQ+ pride flags. 

The main stipulations and concerns over the badges were that they were too political and unnecessary in schools. On the contrary, many individuals spoke out in favor of the badges claiming that they serve to establish a safe educational community for students and provide support to those who need it most. 

FAPS Superintendent Heidie Ciesielski gave a statement prior to the public’s opportunity for comment, stating that teachers who choose to wear the badges are not violating any district policies and are protected by the federal government in doing so. 

FHS student representative Madelin Burnau gave a speech at the board meeting. She stated, “The equality badges are important, they are needed and they improve our school’s atmosphere.” Burnau continues with a personal anecdote, and statistics then closes her argument by stating, “Representation and outward support keep students alive, keep students safe and they are important. The equality badges are a fundamental step towards equality within the education system.”

Burnau has received support online, from other FHS students and from attendees at the meeting. Burnau stated, “I want our students to know that they are all valued and that someone in our community will always have their back, and in this case I hope that they feel I had their backs and if one badge in one classroom saves even just one life, then that is enough for the badges to stay.”

An almost five-minute viral TikTok of Burnua’s speech was posted on April 11 by user @theogsmash and has accumulated over 388.1 thousand views and currently has 48.1 thousand likes. 

“It was amazing seeing that TikTok, especially because it was so unexpected,” Burnau said. “Reading the comments and seeing that it had reached viewers across the nation was even more amazing to see.”

Ciesielski sent out a statement on May 5 updating Fenton families on the status of the badges. She wrote that the president of the Fenton Education Association (FEA) has asked her members to discontinue the badges. Ciesielski stated that the equality badges “have had a disruptive effect despite the group’s positive intent.” 

To watch the full board meeting, click here