A question-and-answer session for students and parents to meet with Terrell — a community builder, educator and speaker — has been set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, in the large instruction room at Grand Haven High School.
Terrell is scheduled to speak to Grand Haven students on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and make a presentation to the wider community on Wednesday.
The school district has heard concerns and objections, as well as supportive messages, from community members, parents and students, said Superintendent Andy Ingall. Terrell offered the opportunity to address the concerns, Ingall said.
Ingall said that Terrell’s programs for Grand Haven students are focused on inclusion and kindness “as a way to prevent mean behaviors, bullying and school violence.”
“This is a very timely, relevant message for our students, given current events across the country,” the Grand Haven Area Public Schools superintendent said.
Concerns about Terrell’s visit have been raised by some community members, including commenters on the Tribune’s previous story about his upcoming visit.
A commenter called Sawyer17 wrote: “I don’t think most of the people that have raised concerns care about how he looks — his message is the problem. You can’t credibly preach tolerance to kids, while being intolerant to people of differing skin color, political, or religious beliefs.”
Commenter Lakota05 wrote, “Good for GHHS having someone speak who doesn’t look like most people in this town and may have differing opinions. Imagine that.”
Commenter Robert responded that the objections to Terrell aren’t about his speaking or differing opinions — he said “that part is good.”
“It’s the racism, hate and anger I do not like and I think has no place anywhere,” Robert wrote. “I don’t care what color the speaker is. In fact, I would bet that if you change the color of the speaker and change their verbiage to fit that associated cultural stereotype, I am sure we would find one that would bother you also. Racism is racism regardless the color of the speaker.”
After hearing Terrell speak at a conference in 2016, a group of Grand Haven students requested Terrell visit Grand Haven. In the Feb. 27 Tribune story, GHHS senior Makenzie Fairfield said that hearing Terrell speak was an impactful experience, and the way he spoke inspired her to take action.
“Mr. Terrell’s programs will expose our students to different perspectives, causing them to think critically about the world around them,” Ingall said. “This is part of our responsibility as educators: to let students hear different perspectives, talk about them, think about them, and decide for themselves if and how those perspectives change their view of the world.”
Sponsorships from the City of Grand Haven, local Chamber of Commerce, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and its Youth Advisory Council, Health Pointe, and Tri-Cities Kiwanis have covered $8,300 of Terrell’s $9,000 speaker’s fee. The remaining $700 is being funded by the school district for staff professional development training with Terrell, Ingall said.
Terrell has previously presented in the area at Grand Valley State University, Holland Public Schools and Hope College.
Next week, Terrell will speak with Lakeshore Middle School students on Tuesday, March 6, and Central and Grand Haven high school students on Wednesday, March 7. Grand Haven and Central high school staff members will also participate in professional development training with Terrell. On Thursday, March 8, about 150 high school students will participate in a “Call to Warriors” training with Terrell, which is aimed at providing them with a plan to carry out his message.
Community members can hear Terrell at a presentation titled “Violence or Virtue.” It will take place 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at GHHS’s Performing Arts Center. The presentation will discuss ways adults can support inclusive and safe schools.