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What happens when you impose a radical (and racial) agenda in schools: The public revolts

The situation in St. Paul, Minnesota schools is a textbook example of what happens when the vision of the “anointed” (to steal a phrase from Thomas Sowell) is imposed upon an entire city’s “benighted.”

As chronicled here at The College Fix and elsewhere, St. Paul schools have witnessed numerous controversial incidents over the past few years, mainly out-of-control student misbehavior and especially attacks on teachers.

Other instances include teachers being transferred to different schools because Black Lives Matter objected to their (non-racial) social media comments about school discipline; an elementary school principal who ditched celebrations of “dominant holidays” until people have a “better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view”; and, a teacher who alleged constant student harassment and assaults claimed she had to begin comments made to administration with “As a white woman, I feel …”

St. Paul schools have been in the thrall of the rather questionable philosophy of entities like the Pacific Educational Group which, as a district teacher says, “teaches that students are victims and teachers are oppressors.” It believes, according to  EAGNews.org, that America’s schools “are biased in favor of white students,” and its training programs “help” teachers to recognize their “privilege” and racial biases.

The district has spent millions on such racialized initiatives, including $2 million on “cultural competency” and “white privilege” training, and another $4.5 million on “restorative justice” programs — basically replacing punishments like suspensions with empathetic confabs where disruptive students can vent about their problems.

Last month it seems enough people had … well, enough. Superintendent Valeria Silva’s contract was bought out, and her position filled on an interim basis.

St. Paul councilman and former school board member Dan Bostrom — who was “part of a group that openly advocated this year for the school board to oust Silva and her cabinet” — said “Somewhere along the way they [the district] have to get their arms around the behavior issues.”

“It’s the kind of thing that drives parents out of the St. Paul Public Schools system. They’re just not willing to put their kids through this stuff.”

Indeed, in January four new board members, including new chairman Jon Schumacher, were elected as part of a group that was fed up with leadership in the district.

But now-resigned board member Jean O’Connell was defiant, and chastised Schumacher and the many others who helped oust Silva:

After serving on the St. Paul school board for more than six years, I made the decision to resign my position rather than participate any longer in a board that refuses to understand its job, has pitted employees against one another and has ignored recommendations by the professionals we have hired to lead our district.

MORE: By a wide margin, teachers, general public against race-based school discipline

None of them [board members] has a superintendent’s or a principal’s license. And yet, they have regularly — in public and, more strenuously, in private — ignored or mocked the professional recommendations of principals and administrators, who have the experience, the knowledge and the licensure to run a large and complex school district. That is not acceptable or responsible governance. How can we expect and encourage more respectful behavior from our students if the adults charged with governing them do not model that behavior?

The climate at the board table has been disrespectful, destructive and cynical. The current chair and treasurer of the board have worked in secret and have frozen different members of this board out of major issues, up to and including their decision to buy out the superintendent’s contract. Not only is that poor board governance, it is terrible leadership.

Ms. O’Connell’s attitude is the very personification of “anointed.” You see the implication: Because the new board members do not possess the “proper” credentials, they’re acting “irresponsibly” by not going along with school administrators’ “professional” suggestions.

Even though they were elected by the people whom the school district serves.

Even as O’Connell (in her letter) advocated for continuation of district racial-equity measures, a late-June letter from “parents and grandparents of students in the St. Paul Public Schools and a 2015 graduate” pointed out that the issue is how to implement them:

More-effective equity initiatives: Seeking to reduce achievement gaps, the former board spent millions on equity consultants and conferences. Training often was not specific enough on research-based teaching strategies. Some students and faculty members described disrupted classrooms, which added to declining enrollment. Moving students with special needs and English-language learners into mainstream classes sometimes worked. Sometimes it failed, because there wasn’t enough support for students. Some rightly challenged white privilege and racial disparities. The district needs more-effective ways to deal with this.

The American public, including school teachers, oppose race-based discipline measures. But as The College Fix has noted and, most recently, Katherine Kersten in The Federalist, the greater problem is the federal government’s pressuring of school districts across the country to “get the numbers ‘right'” in discipline matters — based on the premise of “disparate impact.”

As a result, says Kersten, when “districts experience increased violence and disorder, citizens there will be powerless to stop the debacle.

“The greatest victims will be the poor and minority children in whose names these policies are imposed, but who will now be expected to learn in a chaotic environment where learning has become impossible.”

That’s partially true. One way the public can get around such nonsense is by leaving the traditional public school system, via private/parochial schools or charters.  Admittedly, the former option is much more difficult for poorer students, and charters, although granted more leeway in how they operate, are still public and thus could still suffer federal pressure.

Another way is to challenge the feds in court. Former Education Department attorney Hans Bader points out that US Supreme Court precedent shows the feds actually have little legal leg to stand on in enforcing rules based on “disparate impact.”

But the ultimate way to thwart the feds is to change who runs things … this November.

MORE: St. Paul teachers ripped by Black Lives Matter get transferred

MORE: Claim: Principal required teacher to say ‘As I white woman, I feel …’

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.