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An emergency meeting of the Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee discusses death of Jimari Williams and fight against school layoffs | #hacking | #aihp

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On Saturday, May 20, the Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee (MERFSC) held an emergency meeting, “After the death of Jimari Williams: Mobilize educators, parents and students to defend public health and stop school layoffs.”

Jimari Aiden Williams April 24, 2017 — April 26, 2023 [Photo: James H. Cole funeral home]

The meeting was called in the wake of the tragic death of Jimari Williams, a six-year-old elementary school student at the Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit. Numerous other children were sickened in what was publicly described as cluster of “flu-like illnesses” at the school. The cause of Jimari’s death has still not been made public.

Committee supporters spoke to many parents and educators at the school in the days leading up to the meeting. They heard firsthand the traumatizing impact of the sudden death of the young child.

School officials never directly informed other parents about Jimari’s death. Instead, parents told committee members that they learned about it from the local media. The overwhelming sentiment of parents and educators was anger at being kept in the dark and support for the demand to close the school until it is safe. 

The Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee members also addressed parents and educators at the recent Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) school board meeting alerting the audience to the still-unexplained death of Jimari and the fact that schools are not safe. Committee members connected the fight against layoffs in the district with the fight for safe working and learning conditions.

Detroit teacher and MERFSC chairperson Phyllis Scherrer opened the meeting by stating that the committee was organized December 4, 2020 to resist the unsafe reopening of schools during the pandemic, first under Donald Trump and then under Democratic President Joe Biden. The committee is part of the International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees (IWA-RFC).

The cutoff of COVID-19 relief money has been used to lay off educators and cut school funding in a district, which has been hit by decades of budget cuts and the diversion of resources to publicly funded and privately run charter schools.

Zac Corrigan, a leading member of the Socialist Equality Party, gave the political report. He explained that the World Socialist Web Site had contacted the Wayne County Health Department last week and was told that Jimari’s autopsy is not expected to be released until some time between August and November. He asked, “How can parents trust that their child is safe when we don’t know the most basic information? At least two dangerous airborne pathogens, COVID-19 and H. Influenza, are known to be spreading. Yet the school remains open.”

He emphasized that the brief closure for “deep cleaning” was totally inadequate because a comprehensive approach is necessary when dealing with airborne diseases. Corrigan called for universal testing, contact tracing and quarantining of sick individuals.

“We call for the closure of Marcus Garvey Academy until a full investigation is done and a committee of rank-and-file educators and parents, working together with trusted scientists, deems the school safe!” Corrigan demanded. He called for the immediate release of all information about Jimari’s death and the outbreak at Marcus Garvey.

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