ST. PAUL, Minn. – While teachers blow the whistle on the breakdown of discipline for black students in St. Paul Public Schools, a photo has emerged from an “equity” training that might leave some to wonder what’s actually being taught to teachers.
Aaron Benner, a fourth grade teacher in the district, told EAGnews about how black students “are frequently not held accountable for their actions” due to “white privilege” training for teachers and administrators.
“As a black man I can say that they are hurting black kids,” Benner said. “I’ve never seen anything as idiotic as PEG. Everything we do, PEG is at the forefront.
“It’s so comical. PEG says shouting out in class is a black cultural norm, and being on time is a white cultural thing. It’s so demeaning, so condescending to black kids. If a white person were making claims like this, black people would be in an uproar.
“You are not doing kids any favors by making excuses for them because they are black. It’s not a matter of culture if you’re talking about norms that all cultures need to abide by – you cannot throw things or attack your teacher, regardless of your race.”
According to the source, the photo is from a training this year at Bruce Vento Elementary during a staff meeting.
It features a figure wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood with the question, “When do you wear the hood?”
The principal allegedly displayed the picture and “asked the staff to sit in silence and reflect on it for 3 to 4 minutes.”
The source refused to elaborate out of fear of retribution.
Another source said, “This picture — and the idea that it would be helpful in some way — is totally unbelievable.”
An email to Scott Masini, principal of Bruce Vento, was not immediately returned.
Last May, the Pioneer Press reported the St. Paul district had spent at least $1.2 million on such training from Pacific Educational Group, a San Francisco-based company that conducts similar trainings in school districts across America.
Last fall, the Star Tribune reported St. Paul schools inked a $246,500 contract with PEG for “equity” training – “$133,500 less than the agreement approved for 2013-14.”
Bruce Vento Elementary’s website details the district’s “equity” plan, which includes examining “the presence and role of ‘Whiteness.'”
On Friday evening, Principal Masini responded to EAGnews’ request for comment:
The equity activity, which is a part of our school’s ongoing equity work, wasn’t suggested by Saint Paul Public Schools Office of Equity, nor was it suggested by the Pacific Educational Group (PEG). Back in February, It was an activity that I thought would allow our staff to examine our unintentional biases.
The hope was that by doing the activity, along with the many other conversations and activities that we do, that we could change any practices at our school that were unfair to students. I also thought we were ready to take this deep dive into a difficult conversation on race, white privilege, and practices that don’t serve all students.
The image that was provided to you was completely taken out of context. It does not represent the purpose of the activity nor was it ever used to compare staff with intentional acts of discrimination.