ST. PAUL, Minn. – The St. Paul school district’s student discipline policies – based on the notion of combating “white privilege” – have left the district in legal jeopardy once again.
A former middle school teacher has filed a lawsuit against the district, claiming “she was the victim of harassment and physical assaults by students, but school administrators did nothing to stop it and she was later fired,” according to a news report from TwinCities.com.
The former teacher claims she repeatedly complained to the building principal about the problems, but her pleas were met with hostility. At one point the principal forced her to begin every statement she made in meetings with the phrase, “As a white woman, I feel …,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is consistent with news that has been coming out of the St. Paul district for several years.
Many teachers, parents and observers claim that student behavior has been out of control since the district entered into a consulting relationship with the Pacific Educational Group (PEG) and altered its student discipline policies.
PEG, a San Francisco-based company, consults with schools around the nation regarding equity issues for black and other minority students.
PEG subscribes to the theory of “white privilege.” In education terms, that means the American education system is based on white cultural norms, for the benefit of white students and the detriment of non-whites.
PEG reportedly helped St. Paul school administrators devise a new student discipline policy that stresses fewer punitive actions and out-of-school suspensions for disruptive students, particularly black students.
Many say the result has been chaos in the schools, with violent students being punished with short “time outs,” teachers being assaulted without serious repercussions for perpetrators, and learning often grinding to a halt.
The situation reached a boiling point in December after a high school teacher was assaulted while trying to break up a student fight and required several days of hospitalization.
The injured teacher recently filed a lawsuit against the district, and the teachers union threatened to strike over the safety issue.
The latest lawsuit was filed by former Battle Creek Middle School teacher Peggy Ann Severs, who claims she was “punched, kicked and kneed by students on several occasions and endured regular verbal harassment that was vulgar and sexual in nature,” according to TwinCities.com, which quoted the legal complaint filed by Severs.
“Defendants had the authority to stop the harassment, but they did nothing to help her. Instead, on or about Sept. 21, 2014, (the principal) chastised (Severs) for submitting too many referral forms (regarding student misconduct), and directed her to stop preparing them.
“To make matters worse, in the fall of 2014, defendants removed the telephone from plaintiff’s classroom, making it impossible for her to seek immediate assistance when she was being abused or harassed.”
Another analysis of the lawsuit, published by KSTP, says Severs claims she was punched in the face by students, kicked by a student, hit with a garbage can, and grabbed from behind by a student who simulated a sexual assault on her.
In February 2015 Severs met with the building principal to discuss her complaints, and was place on involuntary leave the next day, pending an investigation of unspecified misconduct on her part, according to the newspaper’s account of the lawsuit
Severs returned to work the following month.
“However, on (Severs’) return, (the principal) belittled her by requiring that she begin each statement during meetings with the preamble, ‘As a white woman, I feel…,” the lawsuit alleges, according to TwinCities.com.
Severs claims she walked out of her classroom May 14 because students repeatedly pushed a table into her and were verbally abusive, according to TwinCities.com. She told the principal she could no longer work in the unsafe conditions and was leaving for the day.
She was fired later the same day, according to the legal claim.