ST. PAUL, Minn. – Parents are speaking out in support of a St. Paul high school teacher targeted by Black Lives Matter, and started a petition to counter the black activist group’s message.
Failed school board candidate turned Black Lives Matter activist Rashad Turner publicly accused Como Park High School teacher Theodore Olson of racism last weekend over two posts Olson made to Facebook about student discipline in the school district.
Turner threatened to gather his Black Lives Matter supporters to “shut down” Como Park High School last if district officials did not agree to immediately terminate the teacher, though Turner canceled those plans after a meeting with district superintendent Valeria Silva last Monday, EAGnews reports.
Two days later, district officials suspended Olson and launched an investigation.
The news of Olson’s suspension came the same day another teacher, Mark Rawlings, was beaten by students when he attempted to intervene in an alleged drug deal gone bad, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
That altercation was caught on video and posted online, and the students were charged with assault.
Rawlings suffered a punch to the eye and chin. He’s the latest victim in what many teachers claim is rampant student misconduct in the district’s classrooms tied to controversial white privilege teacher training and associated “restorative justice” punishments designed to reduce suspensions among black students. Students are no longer held accountable for their misbehavior, and are now creating chaos in the classroom with impunity, teachers contend.
Olson posted to Facebook:
“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 contends Olson’s posts prove his is “the epitome of a bad teacher” and a “white supremacist.”
Many parents, teachers and others who gathered at Gabe’s by the Park last Friday to vent their frustrations with the district’s discipline policy, and to band together in support of Olson and Rawlings, City Pages reports.
“The teachers at Como are outstanding, and for a long time they have not felt free to speak up and defend students’ rights,” parent Jane Sommerville said. “When Theo posted his post, he was expressing his frustration with St. Paul Public Schools. I could see that a lot of people were misconstruing what he said, and I stand for the heart of what he posted, that school climate is a major issue in St. Paul Public Schools and it is not being addressed.”
Teachers also spoke out.
“He meant to say there just isn’t enough support from the school district and administration. There aren’t the social workers, the counselors, the support staff, or a discipline policy that is effective for schools,” Randolph Heights special education teacher JoAnn Nathan said.
“He wants what’s best for our students, and what’s happening right now in St. Paul Public Schools with the climate, the discipline, it’s setting our students up to fail,” Linwood Monroe teacher Angel Thomas said. “Teachers who care are the teachers who complain. The teachers who do not care, they’re the ones who just let it happen.”
“I definitely support the students, and I don’t support for a minute that a teacher can be removed from a classroom because a few individuals don’t like the opinion of that teacher. It’s a sad day for students and teachers,” she said.
The group is now pushing a petition calling for superintendent Silva’s resignation “due to a rapidly downward spiral of the state of public schools and an increase in violence to students and teachers,” the MoveOn.org petition states.
The group of concerned parents and teachers said they want Silva to retire in part because of diminishing expectations for black students in the district.
A total of 673 people have signed the petition as of March 18, and the petition is quickly closing in on its goal of 750 signatures.
The petition background reads:
This petition has been started because the current incumbent Valeria Silva has constantly demonstrated her inability to drive improvements in local St Paul schools. Her inability to make changes to benefit the teachers and students include, but are not limited to, rapid increase in violence towards students and teachers; the lack of support for teachers; the removal of disciplinary actions for violent students, and the lack of transparency between her and protagonists such as Rashad Turner.
The teachers and students of public schools in St. Paul, Minnesota require a new leader, someone that will uphold the need for discipline within schools. St. Paul needs a leader that can directly empower teachers to do what they are best at and to foster a safe environment within our schools. The position that Silva currently occupies requires someone that can stand up to those who want to disrupt schools by illegal protests, and fosters respect for the teaching institution.