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Students defend school district

Several Kalamazoo students turned out at a school board meeting to dispute allegations by a man who held a hunger strike to highlight what he believes is a problem with the district’s textbook policies.

Six students from Loy Norrix High School went to the podium Thursday to say they weren’t getting an inferior education from the public school district, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported . A recent Norrix graduate and a Norrix parent joined them.

“All the resources I’ve ever needed have been provided,” said Nick Granger, a Loy Norrix High School senior, using almost the identical wording of the other student speakers.

Parent Lisa Kistler also defended the district.

“My children have always had the resources they needed. Could they have more resources? Yes,” she told the board. “But that’s not something to complain to you about. Anybody who has a problem with resources should be knocking on the doors in Lansing, not here.”

Their comments came after Kris Mbah, who says students can’t take textbooks home, ended his nine-day hunger strike. He urged people to pack the board meeting, but no one spoke in his support and he left before a district presentation about how textbooks are used and distributed.

“I think it’s interesting that somebody orchestrated this,” Mbah said about the students who spoke Thursday. “The district is offering a story of fluff, which is clearly not the case.”

District administrators said in some instances textbooks are kept in the classroom, but students are allowed to check them out to take home. They also said that those classes tend to rely on other instructional resources, such as workbooks.

Mbah, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board last year, said he started his hunger strike this month based on conversations he had with students, teachers and parents, although he hasn’t given specific examples of students whose studies were undermined because they could not take a textbook home.

On Thursday, Mbah gave the board a copy of an online petition with 236 signatures that “demands that Kalamazoo Public Schools assign our children textbooks.”  (AP)

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