Students, staff call for Cedar Springs superintendent to resign

Posted at 10:03 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 09:19:53-04

SOLON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Several hundred people gathered in Solon Township Thursday to discuss the superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Laura VanDuyn has been with the district for about three-and-a-half years, and some are calling for her resignation.  She has been accused of bullying, intimidation and forbidding collaboration in the workplace.

Some teachers FOX 17 spoke to didn't want to be named out of fear of retaliation, and one announced she will be retiring earlier than planned because of VanDuyn's behavior.  They say their message is clear: enough is enough.

"We teach our students to be activists and for us to remain silent would not be right," one teacher said during the meeting.

At the end of December, Cedar Springs senior Peyton Elliston says she learned that VanDuyn cut ties between the schools and the Cedar Springs Post, a local paper.

"You can't censor what goes in and out of the school because if these kids are trying to educate themselves, I don't know, it's just sad," Elliston told FOX 17.

Elliston says she took it upon herself to collect anonymous letters from people in the community regarding their concerns about the condition of the school district and post them at the school.

"I didn't deface property, I didn't slander anybody," she says. "You know, I made sure everything I did was with good intention because I have the right to speak my mind."

Elliston says she was suspended from school for one day for "insubordination." She says administration tried to intimidate her by offering a deal: she would be allowed to attend her senior prom if she agreed not to speak to Superintendent VanDuyn on school grounds and not speak about her suspension. Elliston wasn't keen on that deal and is now banned from her senior prom.

"What's sad to me is they want to do something about this but they're too afraid because of the retaliation and harassment that comes at them," Elliston said.

That's a sentiment that was shared during Thursday's community meeting, with former and current staff members telling FOX 17 they're afraid of facing intimidation and retaliation for speaking out.

"People who are dead scared to even say anything because of what would happen to them," said Cedar Springs alumni Todd Norman. "This is their lives."

Even some financial decisions of VanDuyn came into question.

"In 2016, Cedar Springs Public Schools spent $323,000 on consultants," said Jan Wallace, a former Cedar Springs School Board member.

FOX 17 reached out to VanDuyn for her response to the effort to get her out of office. She wrote:

As superintendent, it is my promise to the community to make the best decisions I can to ensure our students have an exceptional educational experience while keeping our district financially stable. Our students should have a top notch school system to develop and grow. I am saddened by this petition as I am fully committed to making CSPS the best place it can be. My daily motivation and priority continues to be serving the students and families of CSPS.

As of Thursday evening, the petition for her to resign had reached nearly 2,000 signatures.