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BHS principal resigns after diversity assembly

By Lisa Brody

In the wake of a diversity assembly at Bloomfield Hills High School (BHS) on March 13, which featured a noted anti-Israeli Palestinian speaker who made statements calling Israel an apartheid state, “an oppressor,” as well as denying Israel's existence and created divisiveness in both the school and general community, principal Lawrence Stroughter has resigned after taking a leave of absence.

The resignation follows Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Pat Watson's announcement on Tuesday, April 18, that he would be retiring at the end of the school year.

A statement from BHS Director of Communications Karen Huyghe said, “Mr. Lawrence Stroughter has decided that he will not be returning to Bloomfield Hills High School in order to pursue other opportunities in education. Mr. William Simms will continue to serve as the interim principal. We will share additional information about next steps as they become available.”

Since the assembly on March 13, where a diversity group comprised of sophomores and juniors at the school, with the assistance of a faculty advisor, invited speakers to a diversity assembly. There were four separate assemblies for all students, with, among others, an American Chinese man, a transgender woman, an Indigenous individual, and Palestinian activist Huwaida Arraf invited to speak to students, supposedly to present different backgrounds and experiences.

According to an email sent to parents by Bloomfield Hills High School principal Lawrence Stoughter following the assemblies, “In preparation for this assembly, our student organizers and administrators met with each speaker to discuss the intent of the assembly and prompts. At the diversity assembly for the 10th graders, one of the speakers deviated from the prompts. Without prior knowledge of any of the organizers, the speaker discussed the conflict in Gaza from their own personal political perspective and experience. This discussion was outside of the parameters of the assembly and was addressed by the high school administration immediately after the speaker left the stage.”

Arraf is is a Palestinian American activist and lawyer who co-founded the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led organization using non-violent protests, “direct action methods and principles” and international pressure to support Palestinians. She was the chair of the Free Gaza Movement, the organization behind the Gaza Freedom Flotillas, and has a history of controversial tweets. In 2022, she ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the 10th House Congressional district, losing to Carl Marlinga. She has referred to Zionists (those in favor of the state of Israel) as occupiers running an apartheid state, and accused Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

At a special board of education meeting following the assemblies, hundreds of parents, students and members of the community turned out to relay their fears, anger and disappointment in the school administration, with members of both the Jewish and Muslim communities expressing anger, disappointment and fear.

A recurrent refrain from speakers at the board of education special meeting was that students and the community, which has long been diverse, had gotten along for years until this assembly, and that Stroughter, and diversity director Margaret Schultz had not reacted well to the situation, creating disharmony and anger. Many were distraught at the responses by Stroughter and Watson.

“Before you had someone in charge of diversity, we didn't have these problems, we didn't have these problems. Maybe that's where the problem is,” said one speaker.


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