In the name of racial equity, St. Paul schools have turned to counseling — a 20-minute “time out” with a behavioral coach — rather than suspension for disruptive students, reports Susan Du in City Pages.
At the same time, students with “behavioral issues and cognitive disabilities were mainstreamed into general classes, along with all the kids who spoke English as a second language.”
Teachers are complaining of distrust, disorder and “chaos,” reports Du.
Under Superintendent Valeria Silva, St. Paul spent more than $1 million — EAG News estimates as much as $3 million — on consultants from Pacific Educational Group, which promises to create “racially conscious and socially just” schools.
Pacific offered racial equity training for teachers and staff, where they practiced talking about race. Teachers were asked to explore their biases, to preface their opinions with “As a white man, I believe…” or “As a black woman, I think….”
“The work begins with people looking at themselves and their own beliefs and implicit biases,” says Michelle Bierman, the district’s director of racial equity. If teachers could recognize their subconscious racism, everyone would work together to bridge the gap.
Teachers who say the discipline policy isn’t working are accused of opposing racial equity, says Roy Magnuson, who teaches at Como Park High.
At Harding High, Becky McQueen has been manhandled, injured and threatened — and seen her students attacked — by youths running into her classroom in what teachers call “classroom invasions.”
Now, to know who to let in, she tells her students to use a secret knock at the door.
“There are those that believe that by suspending kids we are building a pipeline to prison. I think that by not, we are,” McQueen says. “I think we’re telling these kids you don’t have to be on time for anything, we’re just going to talk to you. You can assault somebody and we’re gonna let you come back here.”
At one middle school, nine teachers quit before the end of the school year.
At a board meeting in May, teachers’ concerns about lax discipline were “drowned out” by parents and minority leaders who praised the drop in suspensions, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
. . . Aaron Benner, a fourth-grade teacher at John A. Johnson Elementary who is black, said that the district was doing a disservice to the children by not holding them to the same standard as students from other ethnic groups.
“Refusing to work is not black culture,” he said. “Assaulting your teacher is not black culture.”
A teachers’ group is working to replace four school board members in the fall election, reports Du. “They blame the board for backing Silva’s changes despite teacher outcry.”
Hmong students, who make up the district’s largest minority group, are leaving district schools, reports Du. They perform well below district averages. Yet, “all we hear is the academic disparity between the whites and the blacks,” says history teacher Khoa Yang. “This racial equity policy, it’s not equitable to all races.”