East Lansing Public Library issues statement in relation to Teen Room incident on Jan. 11


Photo by Adan Quan

The East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) administration called the police on a Black ELHS student on Jan. 11, mistaking him for the perpetrator of a prior arson incident.

Story by Adan Quan and Allison Treanor

This is an update of a previous story. To view the first story on this event, click here.

On Thursday Jan. 12 around 1 p.m., East Lansing Public Library administrators shared a statement with Portrait, about a day after sharing the same statement with East Lansing Info. This statement comes after a Black ELHS student was subject to attempted removal by library administrators on Jan. 11, an incident which resulted in police being called.

In the statement, administrators call the incident “unfortunate.” The statement says that staff approached the director of the library and author of the statement, Kristin Shelley, saying that a teen who was previously excluded for “setting fire to the men’s bathroom wall” was in the library. This claim is disputed by student witnesses, who only report a small mark on the wall and no fire. 

The director continues, writing that she and the Assistant Director, Brice Bush entered the teen room and asked to speak to the teen, which was refused. According to eyewitness accounts, the teen asked the administrators to speak in the room. From this point, the director reports that the incident escalated, and she was forced to call the police according to the library’s code of conduct. The code of conduct can be found on the library’s website.

Upon the arrival of the police officers, the director wrote that the teen and the mother spoke with the officers and received an apology from the two administrators for “any part in escalating the exchange.” 

According to the statement, administrators have spoken with ELHS administration, MSU groups specializing in teens and the DEI director at the City of East Lansing. The statement also reports that community members were “asked and invited” to come to the library to engage with teens. 

In the statement released to East Lansing Info, this part of the statement differs, saying community members would also “assist us with some of the behavioral challenges” in addition to engagement. 

The statement ends by bringing up previously developed action items, and states the library will be “inclusive” and provide an environment “where all people, including ELHS students are welcome.”

“Today we fell short of those goals,” Shelley wrote.

The full statement is below.

“Yesterday afternoon, there was a very unfortunate incident at the East Lansing Public Library. Staff approached me and said that a young man, who has been excluded from the library for setting fire to the men’s bathroom wall, was in the library. The Assistant Director and I approached the teen and asked to speak to him. The teen refused to have a conversation with us, and the incident escalated, and per the library’s code of conduct, I contacted the police. The police talked with the teen and his mother after she arrived on site. Both the Assistant Director and I apologized to the group of teens and to the mother for any part in escalating the exchange.

Library administration have met with the East Lansing High School administration, groups at Michigan State University who work with teens, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director at the City of East Lansing and we have asked and invited community members to come into the library after school to engage with teens. We have developed action items on being inclusive and on providing an environment in the library where all people, including East Lansing High School students are welcome. Today we fell short of these goals, and I apologize.”

The library’s board of trustees is holding a regular meeting this Wednesday, Jan. 17. The board’s agenda includes two items related to the incident: “Board Discussion regarding media and public communications pertaining to incident involving police called to ELPL on Jan. 11.” As well as “Discuss existing Code of Conduct and use of exclusion letters.”