ST. PAUL, Minn. – Black Lives Matter St. Paul won its war against a special education teacher at Como Park Senior High School.
Theo Olson agreed to retire from the district after the group accused him of being racist for criticizing St. Paul Public Schools’ restorative justice approach to student discipline.
The agreement between Olson and the school district repays the teachers for five days of his 10 day suspension, allows him to collect retirement benefits, and removes three letters in his personnel file relating to his suspension this spring, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Failed school board candidate turned Black Lives Matter activist Rashad Turner described Olson as “the epitome of a bad teacher” and a “white supremacist” over two allegedly “racist” posts the teacher made to Facebook.
The posts read:
“Anyone care to explain to me the school-to-prison pipeline my colleagues and I have somehow created, or perpetuated, or not done enough to interrupt? Because if you can’t prove it, the campaigns you’ve waged to deconstruct adult authority in my building by enabling student misconduct, you seriously owe us real teachers an apology. Actually, an apology won’t cut it.”
“Phones and iPad devices, used for social media and gaming. There have always been rules for ‘devices,’ and defined levels of misconduct. Since we now have no backup, no functional location to send kids who won’t quit gaming, setting up fights, selling drugs, whoring trains, or cyber bullying, we’re screwed, just designing our own classroom rules.”
Turner threatened to “shut down” Como High School if district officials didn’t immediately terminate Olson for the posts, but backed off after meeting with superintendent Valeria Silva.
Two days after the meeting, Silva suspended Olson for 10 days and launched an investigation into the teacher’s online dealings. The suspension came the same day that another teacher, Mark Rawlings, was beaten by students when he attempted to intervene in a drug deal gone bad, EAGnews reports.
Parents, students and school employees rallied behind Olson, both by holding public meetings about the district’s ineffective student discipline policy and through an online petition calling for Silva’s resignation.
The controversial student discipline policy was already a sore subject in the district after other educators vented frustrations in the media about the restorative justice approach, which is based on the white privilege perspective on society. Educators in St. Paul, and many other urban school districts, have received training from the Pacific Educational Group, which argues that white privilege is the real reason black students lag behind their white peers, and are suspended at a disproportionately higher rate.
The white privilege perspective is also the basis for letters sent by Obama’s Justice Department to school districts across the country ordering officials to reduce the suspensions of minority students, which is achieved through the restorative justice student discipline. Restorative justice typically allows students to design their own punishments or participate in conflict resolution talking circles instead of suspensions.
Teachers in St. Paul and many other districts contend the approach results in students fighting, dealing drugs, swearing and assaulting teachers with impunity because they know there are no real consequences for their actions.
Regardless, BLM St. Paul’s Turner has taunted Olson online throughout the ordeal, while at the same time funneling the attention to his campaign for state representative.
District officials did not allow Olson to return to his position as a special education teacher at Como Park, and instead forced him to serve as a floating substitute at various schools around the district, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
Olson, who came to the district in 2000, signed the settlement agreement with the district August 16.
The St. Paul school board fired Silva without cause in June in an agreement that allowed her to serve as a consultant for the district through September 2017. The agreement paid Silva $787,500 in salary and benefits, including pension payments through Oct. 1, 2019, which allows her to retire with a full pension, the Pioneer Press reports.