Detroit school students’ outdoor library, garden vandalized

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Books were torn at an outside library in a Detroit public school Thursday morning. (Photo: Used with permission by Derek Clark)

Staff members at Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School are in shock Thursday after they found their student-built outdoor library and gardens in ruin.

Vandals left a huge mess — the books were either shredded or soaked with water. Pots were cracked and broken. Bookcases and benches were flipped over. Only one book was left intact. 

“That garden means a lot. So for it to be damaged was very heartbreaking,” Dean of Culture Derek Clark said. 

The Detroit school outdoor library was an ongoing project spanning five years, built by the school’s own students.

The library had shelves full of books, with flower pots and benches decorating the yard. It was a lively destination for both students and teachers: kids went outside for art classes to be inspired by nature, students planted vegetables like cucumbers for science classes that they could then take home, teachers went out for their lunch breaks. After a pause during the summer and the pandemic, Clark said the school was ready to switch out some of the books. 

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The library is planning to replace the broken items. The staff is also seeking to secure and lock the space after hours when the campus is empty.

Clark said the school is not looking to find who vandalized the library, rather focusing on fixing the space that he said helps the community.

“I would just say to whoever did it, we don’t want or need you to come forward and apologize or anything,” he said. “Just moving forward, know that your actions don’t only just affect you. There are so many people who actually get vegetables from that garden that they damaged.”

For those interested in donating, contact Greenfield Union directly by calling 313-866-2999 or email derek.clark@detroitk12.org. The library is seeking any books or garden supplies.

Detroit Public Schools Community District recently opened its doors Tuesday for the new year, with 20% of families signing up for in-person classes. The district said the rest of the students are starting at home with laptops provided the schools. 

Nisa Khan is a data intern for the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at nkhan@freep.com and follow her on Twitter @mnisakhan

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